The recent assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, by an assassin with public support, reminded me of the various “incidents” in Imperial Japan leading into WWII, like the May 15 Incident, in 1932:
The May 15 Incident was an attempted coup d’état in Japan, on May 15, 1932, launched by radical elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy, aided by cadets in the Imperial Japanese Army and civilian remnants of the League of Blood Incident. Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by 11 young naval officers.
The eleven murderers of Prime Minister Inukai were court-martialed; however, before the end of their trial a petition arrived at court containing over 350,000 signatures in blood, which had been signed by sympathizers around the country to plead for a lenient sentence. During the proceedings, the accused used the trial as a platform to proclaim their loyalty to the Emperor and to arouse popular sympathy by appealing for reforms of the government and economy. In addition to the petition, the court also received a request from eleven youths in Niigata, asking that they be executed in place of the Navy officers, and sending eleven severed fingers to the court as a gesture of their sincerity.
The Russian Tsar faced similar troubles:
Many of the first leaders of the Red Army had been terrorists in the past, before the Revolution. For example, one of the outstanding organisers of the Red Army, Mikhail Frunze, after whom the principal Soviet military academy is named, had twice been sentenced to death before the Revolution. At the time it was by no means easy to get two death sentences.
For organising a party which aimed at the overthrow of the existing regime by force, Lenin received only three years of deportation in which he lived well and comfortably and spent his time shooting, fishing and openly preaching revolution. And the woman terrorist Vera Zasulich, who murdered a provincial governor was acquitted by a Russian court. The court was independent of the state and reckoned that, if she had killed for political reasons, it meant that she had been prompted by her conscience and her beliefs and that her acts could not be regarded as a crime.
In this climate Mikhail Frunze had managed to receive two death sentences. Neither of them was carried out, naturally. On both occasions the sentence was commuted to deportation, from which he had no great difficulty in escaping. It was while he was in exile that Frunze organised a circle of like-minded people which was called the ‘Military Academy’: a real school for terrorists, which drew up the first strategy to be followed up by armed detachments of Communists in the event of an uprising.