The Unification Church, whose close ties to Japan’s ruling party emerged after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has admitted it has accepted “excessive” donations from the mother of the suspect, and that she should seriously consider whether it led to the murder. .
Abe died after a shooting during an outdoor campaign speech in July. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, said he shot Abe because of the former prime minister’s ties to the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, which he accused of setting up his family. bankruptcy. Yamagami’s mother, a long-time church member, reportedly gave him 100 million yen (£618,000) in donations two decades ago, pushing their family into poverty.
Hideyuki Teshigawara, a senior church official, which now calls itself the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, told a news conference on Thursday that he was “deeply saddened” to learn that Yamagami had told police that his anger towards the church led to the attack.
Teshigawara said he was leading reforms in the church to ensure his recruitment and donations were not coerced or harmful to congregants or their families.
The church acknowledged that Yamagami’s mother had donated more than 100 million yen, including life insurance and real estate, to the group. He said he later returned about half at the request of the suspect’s uncle.
A church lawyer, Nobuya Fukumoto, said he considers Yamagami’s mother’s donations “excessive” and that “we must take it seriously if it upsets [the suspect] and leads to the result”.
The police investigation into Abe’s murder has led to revelations of widespread links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Abe, and the South Korea-based church over their shared interests in conservative causes.
A party survey found nearly half of its lawmakers had ties to the church. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to sever all such ties, but many Japanese want an additional explanation for how the church may have influenced party policies.
Kishida was criticized for his handling of the church controversy as well as pushing state funeral plans for Abe, and his government’s approval ratings plummeted. Abe is one of Japan’s most controversial leaders, and plans for next Tuesday’s state funeral have grown increasingly unpopular as more details have emerged about Abe’s and party’s ties. with the church.
A man set himself on fire near the prime minister’s office on Wednesday in an apparent protest against the state funeral. The man suffered severe burns but was conscious when taken to hospital. Police said it was a suicide attempt and would not provide further details. Media reported that he had a note expressing his opposition to the state funeral.
The suicide attempt amid tight security embarrassed police, who have previously been accused of providing Abe with insufficient protection.
State funerals for prime ministers are rare in Japan. Kishida said Abe deserved the honor of being Japan’s longest-serving leader after World War II and for his diplomatic and economic achievements.
Critics say the plan for a state funeral was decided on undemocratically, has no legal basis and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayers’ money. Political analysts say Kishida decided to hold a state funeral to please Abe’s party faction and bolster his own power.
With Associated Press