TOKYO — A court in Japan on Monday sentenced to death a man who fatally stabbed 19 people in 2016 at a center for the disabled, one of the worst mass murders in the country’s history.
The killer, Satoshi Uematsu, 30, had told the court in Yokohama that he had carried out the assault in an effort to rid Japan of people with mental and physical handicaps, telling officials he had been inspired by Hitler, according to news reports.
The rampage profoundly shocked Japan, where violent crime is relatively unknown, and it offered a searing reminder of the deep stigma attached to disabilities in Japanese society.
Mr. Uematsu had spent years working at the suburban Tokyo center where he carried out the attack, but had left several months beforehand. He had been briefly committed to a hospital by the local authorities after trying to give a politician a letter threatening to kill hundreds of disabled people “for the sake of Japan.”
After the attack, he turned himself in to the police.
Speaking at the sentencing hearing on Monday, a judge described Mr. Uematsu’s actions as “so grave it is impossible to compare them to previous cases,” adding that they “can be met with nothing but the death penalty,” the national broadcaster, NHK, reported.
As the families of victims looked on, the judge refused a request from Mr. Uematsu to make a statement, NHK said. As of Monday, his lawyers had not filed an appeal, the broadcaster added.
The trial was one of the few criminal cases in Japan to be conducted in front of a jury — the system is reserved for severe crimes, including those eligible for the death penalty.
Mr. Uematsu’s defense team had tried to persuade jurors that their client’s mental state did not allow him to understand the seriousness of his actions.
But the judge and jurors concluded that Mr. Uematsu bore full responsibility for the attack.
Speaking at a news conference after the announcement of the sentence, Takashi Ono, whose son was among more than two dozen people wounded during the assault, said that he was relieved by the verdict.
“This was the result that the bereaved and the families of those injured had hoped for,” he told reporters.
Japan is one of a dwindling number of developed nations to maintain the death penalty, with public support for the practice remaining high. The country carries out a small number of executions each year.
Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.