National / Crime & Legal

Former top ministry official sentenced to six year term for son's murder

Kyodo

A court sentenced a former top bureaucrat to six years in prison Monday for killing his socially reclusive son in Tokyo earlier this year.

The Tokyo District Court found that Hideaki Kumazawa, 76, a former vice minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, stabbed his 44-year-old son Eiichiro in the neck and chest multiple times on June 1, causing his death from massive blood loss.

Prosecutors had sought an eight-year term. While acknowledging that the son’s violence at home was behind the murder, they noted there were other ways the situation could have been resolved.

The defense team had sought a suspended term, saying the defendant had long supported his eldest son, who had a developmental disorder, and committed murder in self-defense after his son threatened to kill him.

A lawyer for the defendant had told the court in a previous hearing, “The defendant killed him in fear for his own life.”

According to prosecutors, Eiichiro had displayed violent behavior at home ever since he was bullied at a well-known private junior high school.

After he graduated from high school, the elder Kumazawa moved his son into a home of his own in the Mejiro area of Tokyo. But the son moved back to his parents’ home in Nerima Ward a week before the incident, prosecutors said.

In Friday’s hearing, Kumazawa admitted to the murder charge, saying, “I think it is my duty to pay for the crime and pray that my son can spend a peaceful time in the afterlife.”

Kumazawa joined the predecessor to the farm ministry in 1967, and became vice minister in 2001. He stepped down the following year amid criticism over the ministry’s handling of an outbreak of mad cow disease.

He went on to serve as Japan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2005 to 2008.

The murder case has drawn much public attention in part due to the large number of middle-aged social recluses, known as hikikomori, in Japan, with the government estimating there to be 613,000 such people age 40 to 64 across the country.

Support groups for hikikomori have expressed concern that linking crimes to such people could spread misunderstanding and prejudice against them.

Groups have called for greater efforts to prevent families living with such individuals from becoming isolated.