Japan will not be defeated by violence, says prime minister Fumio Kishida
A hearse believed to be carrying the body of the late former leader accompanied by his widow, Akie, was seen returning from the hospital in Kashihara where Abe was declared dead on Friday after receiving treatment for a gunshot wound.
Pictures showed the car arriving at the couple’s residence as a large crowd of people gathered to pay their respects. Japanese lawmakers stood and bowed as the vehicle passed, amid a heavy police and media presence.
Members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – which was once led by Abe – said they would resume their election campaigning on Saturday. The former prime minister was killed while on the campaign trail ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
Prime minister Fumio Kishida, a protege of Abe, said Japan “will not be defeated by violence” in an emotional speech to the nation as he held back tears.
Mr Kishida said: “The free and fair election, which is the root of democracy, needs to be protected no matter what. We will not be defeated by violence.” He said he was “lost for words” and that he had been “praying that [Abe’s] life would be saved, but despite that, I came to learn of [his death]”.
Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader, was giving a speech in Nara when he was shot from behind in an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere in the world.
He collapsed bleeding at the scene, and was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was given a blood transfusion, but was later pronounced dead.
At the time of the shooting, Abe was speaking to a small crowd in support of the ruling LDP as it seeks a majority in the upper house of the Japanese parliament in coalition with the conservative Komeito party. A total of 125 seats of the total of 248 in the upper chamber are up for grabs.
Abe remained an influential figure in the country’s political landscape following his resignation as prime minister in 2020. But his ultra-nationalist views made him a divisive figure to many.
Outside his residence on Saturday, a throng of people gathered to lay flowers and pay respects to the former leader.
The elections on Sunday will go ahead.
The police have launched a murder investigation. Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy, is under arrest for the killing. Police said during a news conference on Friday that a homemade gun of around 40cm long had been confiscated from the suspect, who had later admitted to shooting Abe.
The police also found various types of gun at his home, according to reports by Japanese public broadcaster NKH.
Agency Kyodo News reported suggestions by investigative sources that Mr Yamagami believed Abe to be connected to the religious group he thought was behind his mother’s bankruptcy.