December 4, 1948
Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Yoshihiro Yasuda (安田 好弘 Yasuda Yoshihiro, born December 4, 1947) is a famed and controversial lawyer in Japan who is known for his anti-death penalty activism. With the death penalty being a prominent method of prosecution in the Japanese judicial system for violent criminals, Yasuda has a history of defending many of these criminals as he wishes to prevent the death penalty from being imposed. As an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, Yasuda has been able to successfully prevent a large number of death sentences from being handed down in his career. At the time Yasuda took on many of these violent cases, such cases were seen as damaging to a lawyer's career, and therefore, there existed only a small number of lawyers who took on such cases because many feared the media bashing, and could not expect much compensation. A significant number of these cases were then defended by Yasuda, and this concentration was viewed as problematic by some critics. He took part in many of these controversial trials because he believed that the suspects were tried unfairly as a result of the mass media bashings. Yasuda is also known to reject television appearances for he dislikes the mass media.
Yoshihiro Yasuda was born in Hyogo Prefecture on December 4, 1947. He graduated Hitotsubashi University Faculty of Law in 1975. In 1977, Yasuda passed the bar exam, and in 1980, he officially became a lawyer after completing the Supreme Court Legal Research and Training Institute. 
Criminal cases 
- Trial of Shinjuku bus attack
Yasuda was one of the defenders of a Shinjuku bus attacker who killed six people in 1980. The attacker wasn't sentenced to death, but he committed suicide in 1997.
Japan Air Lines Flight 404 was an airliner hijacked by Palestinian and Japanese terrorists on July 23, 1973. As of 1987, Yasuda was elected to the counsel of the accused (Osamu Maruoka). Osamu Maruoka received the sentence of life imprisonment.
Shoko Asahara, the founder of the religious cult group Aum Shinrikyou, was trialed as the mastermind behind the crime his followers perpetrated, which included the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack.  Yasuda was the court-appointed attorney to defend Asahara in 1995, but was forced to quit the team in 1997 due to his arrest for obstruction of the compulsory execution concerning a corportation in which he was an advisor for (See arrest of Yasuda). Some critics pointed out that this accusation was implemented because prosecutors were angry at Yasuda's court tactics to delay the trial as long as possible to avoid the sentence of a highly possible death penalty for Asahara. 1,200 lawyers listed as Yasuda's defenders, and Japan Federation of Bar Associations and Amnesty International protested that this accusation was unfair. After his legal complications were settled in 2003, Yasuda became Asahara's private lawyer, and in September 15, 2006, the Supreme Court handed down the original judgement of the death penalty on Asahara.
Yasuda defended Masumi Hayashi, who was convicted of putting poison in a pot of curry being served at a 1998 summer festival in the Sonobe district of Wakayama, Wakayama, Japan. Yasuda was asked by Kazuyoshi Miura, who was exchanging letters with Masumi Hayashi, to work on this trial. Despite Yasuda's efforts, she was sentenced to death in 2002. 
Trial of homicides in Hikari City 
Yasuda is a chief defender for a 19 year-old boy accused and sentenced to death by the Hiroshima High Court in April 2008 for raping and strangling to death a woman and murdering her one year-old daughter in 1999 in Hikari city, Yamaguchi.  This case has received much attention because of the circumstances of the crime and the possibility of imposing the death penalty on a minor (the age of majority in Japan is 20).  The Supreme Court ruled that his age at the time of the crime, did not exempt him from the death penalty. Yasuda and the defense team is trying to prevent the death penalty from being applied by claiming that the accused did not intend to kill the woman or her baby. In March 2006, Yasuda and his group of attorneys were absent from the oral argument hearing with some reason. The Japanese media have considered that their behavior was to delay the trial just as they did during the Asahara trial without any legitimate reasons; the Supreme Court ordered them to attend the next hearing.
Arrest of Yasuda 
On December 6, 1998, Yasuda was arrested on the reason that he obstructed justice (the compulsory seizure of rental income of one of the failed jusen mortgage lenders).  Yasuda was charged with advising Singaporean real estate developer Sun Chungli and his son Naoaki, to set up a dummy company to hide assets. Sun was president of “Sun's Corporation Tokyo Ltd..,” a major borrower from the several former, now obsolete junsen housing loan companies. Yasuda was accused by the police of conspiring with Sun to hide rental income of approximately 200 million yen by using a dummy company by the name of Wide Treasure. The police suspected that Yasuda instructed the Sun family on how to hide assets. Yasuda acknowledged that he became the legal advisor for Sun in 1991, but argues that he gave advice within a legal framework. Yasuda denies the charges, and claims he had no involvement in the Wide Treasure operation while the Sun family pleaded guilty. Yasuda was incarcerated in a police station cell from the time of his arrest on December 6, 1998 until he was transported to the Tokyo Detention House on January 6, 1999. Normally, in cases such as these, bail is granted and withheld only in the case that the prosecutor can prove the accused is either a danger to society, may destroy evidence or flee. On the sixth attempt of Yasuda's defense team to request bail, the District Court granted bail on June 11, 1999. On the same afternoon, however, the prosecutorial authorities filed a protest against the bail and the bail was cancelled; Yasuda remained in jail. No motive was established for Yasuda, and therefore, many believe this was a case of bekken taiho, an arrest on a charge unrelated to an investigation as he was defending the Aum's former leader, Shoko Asahara at the time. As a result of his ten month arrest, Yasuda was unable to remain on the Asahara case. Yasuda was acquitted in 2003. 
Views on mass media 
Yasuda's reason for defending the accused who are labelled by society as highly vicious criminals is that he believes their chance of a fair trial is taken away by media bashings. Yasuda fears the recent trend by the media to label people as vicious villains to bury the possibility of a legitimate trial for the accused as a signal of crisis of democracy in Japan. Yasuda criticizes the premise of modern Japanese law that deviates from justice as the need for assumed innocence has increasingly become a prerequisite for acquittal; he sees this as a crisis in the judicial system. 
Shishabengonin was released in theaters on June 30, 2012. It is a documentary directed by Junichi Saito that explores the themes of capital punishment with a special focus on Yoshihiro Yasuda, as a lawyer and activist against the death penalty. The movie is originally based on a TV show that used to air midnights in 2011. 
- Narration: Taro Yamamoto
- Director: Junichi Saito
- Producer: Katsuhiko Abuno
- Music: Shouhei Murai
- Music producer: Kozue Okada
- Filming: Akihiko Iwai
- Editor: Tetsuji Yamamoto
Shikei Bengonin: Ikiru to Iu Kenri 
- ‘Amnesty International calls for inquiry into arrest of prominent human rights activist’. (In English)
- The Yasuda Arrest: Criminal and Political Considerations, Japan Policy Research Institute (In English).