A Japanese man was sentenced to death in one of the country's worst mass murders in a nursing home on Monday for stabbing murder of 19 disabled people.
Satoshi Uematsu never denied his involvement in the gruesome rampage, but his lawyers did not plead guilty, arguing that the 30-year-old was suffering from a "mental disorder" related to his marijuana use.
The court ruled that the former employee of the facility deserves no leniency from the 2016 attack that shocked the country.
"The lives of 19 people were taken away. This is profoundly serious," judge Kiyoshi Aonuma told the court.
Uematsu planned the killings and had "an extreme intent to kill," he added.
The prosecutor requested the death penalty – which is carried out by hanging in Japan – and argued that the accused was able to take responsibility for the violence at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en center outside Tokyo.
Uematsu was indifferent when the verdict was announced and looked directly at the judge when he was sentenced.
He wore a black suit with a long ponytail to the waist and was flanked by six uniformed court officers wearing surgical masks.
Uematsu, who has been charged with six charges including murder, reportedly said before the trial that he would not contest the verdict, despite arguing that he did not deserve the death penalty.
According to reports, he wanted to exterminate all disabled people in the terrible attack, which also injured 26 people.
"I hate you so much"
After the attack, he turned to the police and wore bloody knives.
It later turned out that he had left his job at home a few months earlier and was forcibly hospitalized after telling his colleagues that he intended to kill people in the center.
But he was released after only 12 days when a doctor decided he wasn't a threat. He had also written a letter outlining plans for an attack on the house, claiming that "disabled people are bad luck".
Among the few victims identified publicly was a 19-year-old woman, Miho, whose mother said Uematsu needed "no future".
"I hate you so much. I want to tear you apart. Even the most extreme punishment is easy for you. I will never forgive you," said the mother before the verdict, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
"Please bring back my most valuable daughter … you are still alive. It is not fair. It is wrong."
"I'm demanding the death penalty," she added.
Takashi Ono, whose son was seriously injured in the attack, told reporters that he was "relieved."
"The judge gave the verdict that the victims' families had hoped for," he said.
However, some questioned the need for a death sentence, a policy that is unlikely to face much resistance in Japan.
"It shouldn't have been the death sentence. We should have allowed him to learn better," said Rie Sumida, a disabled 45-year-old woman waiting for the verdict.
"If you kill the person because of what they did, it means that you are doing the same thing as Uematsu," she told AFP.
The head of the nursing home, Kaoru Irikura, had tears in her eyes when she described how she listened to the verdict.
"When the judge explained Uematsu's motives again today, I imagined every scene," she said in tears from the day of the attack.
"I want him to face what he did until he dies."
The process was closely monitored, and a court spokesman said more than 1,600 people queued for 10 places for the verdict.
The number of spots has been reduced due to rules that require viewers to sit separately to prevent the spread of the corona virus.
Uematsu has shown no regrets for the attack and told the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun daily that people with intellectual disabilities "have no heart" and "it makes no sense to live".
Uematsu's beliefs shocked Japan, and experts and activists asked if others could share similar views.
Japan has made efforts to improve accessibility – especially in Tokyo before this year's Paralympic Games – and activists welcomed the election of two disabled lawmakers last year.
However, some critics believe that the country still does not fully integrate people with disabilities.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)