A Japanese man pleaded guilty to murdering nine people after contacting them on Twitter in a high profile case that shocked the country.
Takahiro Shiraishi, nicknamed the “Twitter killer”, was arrested in 2017 after body parts were found in his home.
He said in a Tokyo court on Wednesday that the allegations against him “are all correct”.
But his lawyers argue that his charges should be reduced because his victims appear to have consented to be killed.
If Mr. Shiraishi is convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty, which is imposed by hanging in Japan.
The court case met with great interest. More than 600 people stood in line for 13 public gallery seats to watch the first hearing on Wednesday, the public broadcaster NHK reported.
Prosecutors said the defendant opened a Twitter account in March 2017 “to contact women who are contemplating suicide and whom he viewed as easy targets,” NHK said.
Eight of his victims were women, one of whom was 15 years old.
The only male victim, aged 20, was killed after confronting Mr. Shiraishi with his girlfriend’s whereabouts, Japanese media reported.
The 29-year-old reportedly lured his victims by telling them he could help them die and in some cases claimed he would kill himself next to them.
His Twitter profile contained the words: “I want to help people who are really in pain. Please DM [direct message] me anytime. “
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The serial killings first became known when police were investigating the disappearance of a young woman who later turned out to be one of the victims.
The officers visited Mr. Shiraishi’s home in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo, where they found dismembered body parts.
What do his lawyers say?
Mr. Shiraishi’s lawyers argue that his victims consented to be killed, so the charges should be reduced to “murder with consent”. This translates into a lower sentence of between six months and seven years.
However, it is reported that Mr. Shiraishi disagrees with his lawyers.
He told Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper, that he had killed without his victims’ consent.
“There were bruises on the back of the victims’ heads. That means there was no consent and I did it so that they would not resist,” he said in the comments posted on Wednesday.
What impact did the murders have?
The serial killings have baffled Japan. When they were exposed in 2017, it sparked a new debate over websites discussing suicide. At the time, the government said it could introduce new regulations.
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The killings also resulted in a change by Twitter, which changed its rules so that users should not “encourage or encourage suicide or self-harm.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at the time the case was “extremely” sad.
Japan has long battled one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialized world, though the numbers have fallen since prevention measures were in place more than a decade ago.
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