Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Unification Church, which has strong ties to Japan’s ruling party, admitted on Thursday that it had accepted “excessive” donations from the suspect’s mother, and that it needed to be seriously considered if that led to it. to kill.
Abe was shot dead during an outdoor campaign speech in July. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he killed Abe because of his apparent ties to a religious group he hated. A letter and social media posts attributed to him say his mother’s large donation to the church bankrupted his family and ruined his life.
Hideyuki Teshikawahara, a senior official at the church, said at a news conference that he was “deeply saddened” to hear Sanshin tell police his anger at the church. attack.
Teshigawara said he is leading reforms in the church to ensure its recruitment and donations do not coerce or harm followers or their families.
The church acknowledged that the mountain’s mother donated more than 100 million yen ($700,000) to the organization, including life insurance and real estate. It said it was later returned about half of it at the request of the suspect’s uncle.
Church lawyer Nobuya Fukumoto said he believed Yamagami’s mother’s donation was “excessive” and that “if this tortures (the suspect) and leads to results, we must take it seriously.”
A police investigation into Abe’s killing has revealed extensive ties between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which includes Abe, and the South Korean church over shared interests in conservative causes.
An LDP survey found that nearly half of MPs had church ties. The current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has pledged to cut all such ties, but many Japanese want further explanation of how the church might influence party policy.
Kishida, who has come under fire for his handling of church controversies and for pushing for plans for a state funeral for Abe, has seen his government approval ratings plummet. Plans for a state funeral next Tuesday for Abe, one of Japan’s most divisive leaders, are increasingly unpopular as more details emerge about the party and Abe’s ties to the church.
A man set himself on fire near the prime minister’s office on Wednesday, in apparent protest over a state funeral. The man suffered severe burns but was still conscious when he was taken to hospital. Police said it was an attempted suicide and declined to provide further details. Media reports said he had a note expressing his opposition to the state funeral.
The attempted suicide in high security has embarrassed police, who have already been accused of providing insufficient protection for Abe.
State funerals for prime ministers are rare in Japan. Kishida said Abe deserved to be honored as Japan’s longest-serving leader and diplomatic and economic achievements after World War II.
Critics say the decision on the state funeral program is undemocratic, has no legal basis, and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayer funds. Political analysts said Kishida’s decision to hold a state funeral was an attempt to please Abe’s party and support his own power.
Okada, the top leader of the main opposition Cadets, told a group of reporters on Thursday that there were many problems with holding a state funeral and that top party leaders would boycott the event.
“The most unfortunate thing is that the state funeral was held despite the opposition of the majority, and I think it was also unfortunate for former Prime Minister Abe,” Okada said. “Prime Minister Kishida should make decisions more carefully.”