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A Japanese court sentenced a man to death after finding him guilty of murder and other crimes Thursday for carrying out an arson attack on an anime studio in Kyoto that killed 36 people.

The Kyoto District Court said it found the defendant, Shinji Aoba, mentally capable to face punishment for his crimes and announced the sentence of capital punishment after a recess in a two-part session on Thursday.

Aoba stormed into Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio on July 18, 2019, and set it on fire. Many of the victims were believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 30 other people were badly burned or injured.

Judge Keisuke Masuda said Aoba had wanted to be a novelist but was unsuccessful and so he sought revenge, thinking that Kyoto Animation had stolen novels he submitted as part of a company contest, according to NHK national television.

NHK also reported that Aoba, who was out of work and struggling financially after repeatedly changing jobs, had plotted a separate attack on a train station north of Tokyo a month before the arson attack on the animation studio.

Aoba plotted the attacks after studying past criminal cases involving arson, the court said in the ruling, noting the process showed that Aoba had premeditated the crime and was mentally capable.

“The attack that instantly turned the studio into hell and took the precious lives of 36 people, caused them indescribable pain,” the judge said, according to NHK. During the trial, Aoba told the victims’ families that he was sorry, but he did not show sincere regret or face their sufferings fully, and there was little hope for correction, the ruling said.

Aoba, 45, was severely burned and was hospitalized for 10 months before his arrest in May 2020. He appeared in court in a wheelchair.

His defense lawyers argued he was mentally unfit to be held criminally responsible.

About 70 people were working inside the studio in southern Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, at the time of the attack. One of the survivors said he saw a black cloud rising from downstairs, then scorching heat came and he jumped from a window of the three-story building gasping for air.

The company, founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni, made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls, and the studio trained aspirants to the craft.

Japanese media have described Aoba as being thought of as a troublemaker who repeatedly changed contract jobs and apartments and quarreled with neighbors. The fire was Japan’s deadliest since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Kyoto Animation attack was “a highly tragic case” and that the government has since stepped up restrictions on gasoline sales, including mandatory identification checks of purchasers. Hayashi, however, declined to comment on the death penalty ruling.



Thailand’s Constitutional Court is set to decide Wednesday whether popular politician Pita Limjaroenrat, who was blocked from becoming prime minister, should now lose his seat in Parliament.

The election victory last year by Pita’s progressive Move Forward party reflected a surprisingly strong mandate for change among Thai voters after nearly a decade of military-controlled government. But the party was denied power by members of the unelected and more conservative Senate.

Pita was suspended from his lawmaking duties pending the court ruling Wednesday on whether he violated election law due to his ownership of shares in ITV, a company that is the inactive operator of a defunct independent television station. By law, candidates are prohibited from owning shares in any media company when they are registered to contest an election.

The Senate, whose members are appointed by the military, cast votes to choose a prime minister, under a constitution that was adopted in 2017 under a military government. The Move Forward party now heads the opposition in Parliament.



Eight months after crossing the Rio Grande into the United States, a couple in their 20s sat in an immigration court in Miami with their three young children. Through an interpreter, they asked a judge to give them more time to find an attorney to file for asylum and not be deported back to Honduras, where gangs threatened them.

Judge Christina Martyak agreed to a three-month extension, referred Aarón Rodriguéz and Cindy Baneza to free legal aid provided by the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami in the same courthouse — and their case remains one of the unprecedented 3 million currently pending in immigration courts around the United States.

Fueled by record-breaking increases in migrants who seek asylum after being apprehended for crossing the border illegally, the court backlog has grown by more than 1 million over the last fiscal year and it’s now triple what it was in 2019, according to government data compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Judges, attorneys and migrant advocates worry that’s rendering an already strained system unworkable, as it often takes several years to grant asylum-seekers a new stable life and to deport those with no right to remain in the country.

“Sometimes hope already sinks,” said Mayra Cruz after her case was also granted an extension by Martyak because the Peruvian migrant doesn’t have an attorney.

“But here I’ve felt a bit safer,” added Cruz, who said she had to flee with only the clothes on her back with her partner and their children after repeated threats from gangs.

About 261,000 cases of migrants placed in removal proceedings are pending in the Miami court — the largest docket in the country. That’s about the same as were pending nationwide a dozen years ago, said Syracuse University professor Austin Kocher.

The backlog includes migrants who have been in the United States for decades and were apprehended on unrelated charges, but most are new asylum seekers who declare a fear of persecution if they are sent back, he added.

Backlogged courts, administered by the Justice Department, often get little attention in immigration debates, including in current Senate negotiations over the Biden administration’s $110 billion proposal that links aid for Ukraine and Israel to asylum and other border policy changes.

When migrants are apprehended by U.S. authorities at the border, many are released with a record of their detention and instructions to appear in court in the city where they are headed. That information is passed on from the Department of Homeland Security to the Justice Department, whose Executive Office for Immigration Review runs the courts, so that an initial hearing can be scheduled.

“They’re just being released without any idea of what comes next,” said Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services for the Archdiocese of Miami, which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants join its diaspora communities.

So many migrants go to them for advice that, in the last couple of years, they’ve largely switched to teaching how to self-petition and represent themselves before judges.

“We help them understand what judges want, and we help judges with efficiency and preserving fundamental rights,” said Miguel Mora, a Catholic Legal Services supervising attorney in Miami.

Advocates say that most migrants ask for individual legal representation, something that’s becoming increasingly rare given the huge numbers, and how to get work permits, which migrants can apply for 150 days after filing their asylum application.

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