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Tokyo courts hands homeless man prison term over Golden Gai fire

Hiroshi Haruna
Hiroshi Haruna was sentenced to 3 years and six months in prison for arson (TV Asahi)

TOKYO (TR) – The Tokyo District Court on Thursday handed a homeless man a prison sentence extending for three years and six months for starting a fire that damaged a number of buildings in the historic Golden Gai last year, reports Jiji Press (July 20).

During his trial, Hiroshi Haruna, 67, denied starting the blaze, which began on the afternoon of April 12 and burned approximately 300 square meters of space over three buildings in the district.

“It was an exceedingly dangerous crime in which criminal liability is heavy,” said presiding judge Hidekazu Komada in handing down the ruling. The prosecution had sought a prison term of four years.

Surveillance camera footage showed Haruna entering a building on the ground floor and moving upstairs to a second-floor restaurant, which was undergoing remodeling, at around the time the fire started.

Gas leak or electrical problem

The lawyer for the defense acknowledged that the defendant entered the building where the fire started. However, the lawyer claimed the fire likely started due to a gas leak or electrical problem.

Judge Komada said that since several lighters were found in the ruins of the blaze it is more likely that Haruna started the fire as a means of revenge after not finding anything inside to steal.