Firefighters searching for missing people at a three-story Kyoto Animation building which fire occurred, in Kyoto, western Japan, 18 July 2019. EFE-EPA FILE/JIJI JAPAN OUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO ARCHIVES

Trial begins for deadly Japanese animation studio fire that killed 36 people in 2019

Tokyo, Sep 5 (EFE).- The trial for an arson attack at an animation studio in western Japan that left 36 dead in 2019 began on Tuesday.

Shinji Aoba, 45, is accused of setting the Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto prefecture on fire, causing one of the worst fires in Japan’s recent history.

During the first hearing of the trial, Aoba, who came to court in a wheelchair, admitted to starting the fire but said that he did not expect so many people to die, public broadcaster NHK reported.

His lawyers said that Aoba could not be held criminally responsible as he was not in full mental faculties while the prosecution argued that he was “fully capable” of taking responsibility, NHK said.

Although Aoba claimed that the studio stole his ideas for a novel, he did not commit the crime under any delusions, the prosecution said, adding that it was the result of a misdirected grudge.

The trial has kicked off amid great public anticipation.

Nearly 500 people showed up at the Kyoto District Court to attend the hearing – for which there were only 35 seats available – in support of the victims and their families.

Aoba is accused of breaking into the studio on July 18, 2019, and pouring a flammable liquid around the building and setting it on fire.

A total of 36 people died in the fire, which also caused injuries to another 33, including the defendant, who had to be hospitalized for severe burns and was formally arrested on July 27 of that year.

Most of those killed in the fire were between 20 and 30 years old and were trapped in a staircase of the three-story building when they tried to escape the blaze by rushing to the roof, whose door was closed.

On the day of the fire, 70 of the more than 170 employees of the studio, known both in Japan as well as internationally for productions such as the “Lucky Star” and “K-O!!” series and animation film “Violet Evergarden,” were in the building. EFE