Shinzo Abe: Hundreds protest state funeral for former Japanese prime minister | world news

Several hundred protesters in Tokyo are calling for the cancellation of the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The longest-serving leader in the country was fatally shot on an outdoor campaign in July in the city of Nara.

Protesters called Mr Abe’s policies pro-war, noting his consistent efforts to increase defense spending and his close ties to the controversial Unification Church, which critics call a cult.

The state funeral will take place next Tuesday, but protesters are calling for it to be cancelled.

Yoshiko Kamata, a part-time worker at a supermarket, said the protest was a good opportunity to send the message that Mr. Abe never stood next to ordinary people.

She said, “Just because he’s dead, we’re not going to forgive Abe.”

Protests and marches against the state funeral are taking place across the country.

Anger mounted on Wednesday when a man in his 70s set himself on fire near the prime minister’s residence in an apparent protest at the state funeral, Japanese media reported. He was consciously taken to hospital.

Protests in Kyoto. Photo: Kyodo/AP

About 62% of respondents in a recent Mainichi newspaper poll said they were against holding a state funeral for Mr Abe.

Opposition to the state funeral is also linked to Mr Abe and ties between lawmakers in the party he led, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church.

Police say the suspected killer of the former prime minister, Tetsuya Yamagami, accused the church of impoverishing his family. In social media posts for the murder, he blamed Mr Abe for supporting the group.

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Moment Shinzo Abe shot on stage

State funerals are often for emperors

In Japan, state funerals are historically reserved for the emperor.

The official public bill for the funeral is about 1.7 billion yen (£11 million), but experts note that hidden costs such as security add to the total.

The decision to keep one for the former prime minister was taken by the cabinet and did not go through parliamentary approval. Some groups of lawyers have challenged its legality.

While Mr Abe was loved by nationalists and many on the right for his defense and pro-market policies, he was reviled by many who want to leave the country’s pacifist constitution unchanged.

A private funeral was held for Mr. Abe on July 12, and some 6,000 guests are expected to gather for the state funeral next Tuesday.

Yamagami is reportedly undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

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