A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister’s office on Wednesday after resisting a state funeral for murdered ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, local media reported.
The police, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet all declined to comment on the reports.
TV Asahi said the man set himself on fire after telling police he opposed the planned ceremony for Abe, which is slated to take place next week.
The television station said a police officer who tried to put out the fire was injured.
The Kyodo news agency and other media said police were called to the scene around 7:00 AM (2200GMT) after reports were made that a man “had gone up in flames”.
The agency said a note was found near the man expressing his opposition to the funeral.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw a scorched patch of grass and brush just hours later, with police and media nearby.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was shot dead on July 8 while campaigning, and a government-funded state funeral will be held in his honor on September 27.
But state funerals are rare in Japan and the decision was controversial. Recent polls show that more than half of the public is against the idea.
Abe was Japan’s best-known politician and remained a prominent public figure after his resignation for health reasons in 2020.
He was campaigning for ruling party candidates in the Nara region’s upper house elections when he was gunned down by a man who allegedly believed the former leader had ties to the Unification Church.
World leaders expected
The murder sparked shock and international condemnation, but a decision by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to authorize a state funeral has proved controversial.
Abe was far from universally popular, and many opposed his aggressive nationalist views or were angered by persistent accusations that he was involved in nepotism.
The ceremony for Abe is expected to cost at least 1.7 billion yen ($12 million).
Kishida, who is currently in New York to address the UN General Assembly, has defended the plan, stressing that Abe’s record-breaking tenure and international reputation mean he deserves the ceremony.
But the prime minister has seen his approval ratings take a hit over the decision, as well as swirling controversy over the ties between politicians and the Unification Church.
Tetsuya Yamagami, the man accused of shooting Abe, reportedly hated the church because of his mother’s membership and hefty donations that bankrupted his family.
The church, whose members are sometimes colloquially referred to as the “Moonies” after Korean founder Sun Myung Moon, has been accused of pressuring believers to make sometimes devastating donations — accusations it denies.
Although Abe was not a member of the Church, he turned to affiliate groups, and his death sparked renewed investigation into the cult and its ties to politicians in Japan.
A survey by Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party found that about half of lawmakers had ties to the cult.
He has promised that the party will cut all ties with the church, which has denied any allegation.
Abe’s state funeral will be held at Budokan in Tokyo, a major venue for concerts and sporting events.
World leaders, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, are among those in attendance.
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