In a high-profile case that shocks the nation, a Japanese man has been found guilty of killing nine people after contacting him on Twitter.
Dubbed the “Twitter killer”, Takahira Shiroishi was arrested in 2017 after being found with body parts in his flat.
He told a Tokyo court on Wednesday that the allegations against him were “all true”.
But his lawyers argue that his charges should be reduced because his victims explicitly agreed to commit murder.
If convicted of murder, Mr. Shiraishi faces the death penalty, which is hanged in Japan.
Public broadcaster NHK has attracted widespread interest in the court case, with more than 600 people lined up for 13 public gallery seats to watch the first hearing on Wednesday.
Prosecutors say the accused opened a Twitter account in March 2017 to “contact women contemplating suicide, which they saw as easy targets”, NHK said.
Eight of his victims were women, one of whom was 15 years old.
Japanese media reported that the only male victim, aged 20, was killed after confronting Mr. Shiraishi about the whereabouts of his girlfriend.
The 29-year-old is believed to have lured his victims into saying that he could help them die and in some cases claimed that he would kill himself along with them.
His Twitter profile had the words: “I want to help those who are really in pain. Please D.M. [direct message] Me anytime.
- Nine dead bodies found in Japan flat
- Sad with ‘Twitter killer’
The serial murders came to light when police were reporting the disappearance of a young woman, who later became one of the victims.
Officers visited Mr. Shiraishi’s flat near Tokyo in the Japanese city of Zama, where he found parts of the body.
What do his lawyers say?
Mr. Shiraishi’s lawyers argue that his victims agreed to be killed, so the charges should be reduced to “assassination by consent.” It carries a lesser prison sentence of between six months and seven years.
But it is reported that Mr. Shiraishi disagrees with his lawyers.
He told a local daily, Menichi Shimbun, that he murdered his victims without their consent.
He said in comments published on Wednesday, “The victims had bruises on the back of their heads. That means there was no consensus and I did it so that they would not protest.”
What is the effect of the killings?
Japan was shocked by the successive killings. When he was exposed in 2017, it sparked a new debate about websites that discuss suicide. At the time the government indicated that it could implement the new rules.
- Japan to take action on suicide websites
The killings also prompted a change by Twitter, which amended its rules to allow users of the state to “not promote or encourage suicide or suicide”.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said that when the case was “extremely” tragic.
Japan has long struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialized world, although figures have fallen since preventive measures were introduced more than a decade ago.
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