The Unification Church, whose close ties to Japan’s ruling party emerged after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, acknowledged on Thursday that it had accepted “excessive” donations from the suspect’s mother, and that it would have to seriously consider it if that led to the slaughter.
Abe was shot and killed during an outdoor campaign speech in July. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police that he killed Abe because of his apparent connection to a religious group he hated. A letter and social media posts attributed to him say his mother’s large donations to the church bankrupted his family and ruined his life.
Hideyuki Teshigawara, a senior official at the church, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, told a news conference he was “deeply saddened” to hear that Yamagami had told police that his anger towards the church led him to death. attack.
Teshigawara said he is leading reforms in the church to ensure its recruitment and donations are not forced or harmful to followers or their families.
The church has acknowledged that Yamagami’s mother donated more than 100 million yen (US$700,000) to the group, including life insurance and real estate. She said she later returned about half at the request of the suspect’s uncle.
A lawyer for the church, Nobuya Fukumoto, said he considers Yamagami’s mother’s donations “excessive” and “we have to take it seriously if that tormented (the suspect) and led to the outcome.”
The police investigation of Abe’s murder 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.
An LDP survey found that nearly half of its lawmakers had ties to the church. The current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has vowed to sever all such ties, but many Japanese want a more detailed explanation of how the church may have influenced party policies.
Kishida has been criticized for his handling of the church controversy, as well as for pushing plans for a state funeral for Abe, and ratings of support for his government have plummeted. Abe is one of Japan’s most divisive leaders, and plans for next Tuesday’s state funeral have grown increasingly unpopular as more details emerge about the party’s and Abe’s ties to the church.
On Wednesday, a man set himself on fire near the prime minister’s office in an apparent protest against the state funeral. The man suffered severe burns but was conscious when he was taken to hospital. Police said it was a suicide attempt and declined to provide further details. Media reports said that he had a note expressing his opposition to the state funeral.
The suicide attempt amid heightened security was an embarrassment for police, who have already been accused of providing insufficient protection for Abe.
State funerals for prime ministers are rare in Japan. Kishida has said that Abe deserves the honor as 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 undemocratically, has no legal basis and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayer money. Political analysts say Kishida decided to hold a state funeral to please Abe’s party faction and bolster his own power.
An executive from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Katsuya Okada, told a group of reporters on Thursday that there are many problems with holding a state funeral and that party executives will boycott the event.
“The most unfortunate thing is that the state funeral is taking place despite the fact that most people are against it, which I think is also unfortunate for former Prime Minister Abe,” Okada said. “Prime Minister Kishida should have made a decision more carefully.”