Japanese officials and news outlets say an elderly man set himself on fire outside the prime minister’s office in Tokyo Wednesday in an apparent protest of next week’s state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
News reports say the man, believed to be in his 70s, sustained burns over a large part of his body but was conscious when he was taken to a hospital. He reportedly told police that he deliberately poured oil on himself and set himself on fire.
A note he apparently wrote was found nearby in which he said he was strongly opposed to Abe’s funeral. A police officer who tried to put out the fire was reportedly injured.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was assassinated on July 8 while delivering a speech at a campaign rally in the western city of Nara. The suspected gunman, who was apprehended at the scene, was reportedly angry over Abe’s suspected links to the South Korean-based Unification Church, which he blamed for his mother’s financial ruin.
Abe led Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which recently revealed that nearly half of its lawmakers have ties to the Unification Church. The revelations have gradually turned public opinion against the state funeral for Abe as well as support for current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Kishida has defended the ceremony, saying Abe deserves the honor due to his record-breaking tenure and international standing.
The funeral is set for next Tuesday, September 27, with about 6,000 people expected to attend, including U.S Vice President Kamala Harris.