Japan’s government asked a court to order the dissolution of a fringe religious group whose activities were cited as motivation in the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year.
(Bloomberg) — Japan’s government asked a court to order the dissolution of a fringe religious group whose activities were cited as motivation in the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year.
Top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Friday the motion had been filed. If approved, it would remove the legal status of the group formerly known as the Unification Church, ending its tax advantages but not preventing it from continuing operations in the country that has been a base of its support for decades.
The church has said in a statement on its website the government’s decision to seek its dissolution was based on “biased information” and vowed to contest the case in court. Closed-door hearings are expected to be held at the Tokyo District Court and either side can appeal the result, meaning the process could take months or even years.
Abe’s accused killer told police he was motivated by the former premier’s links to the church, which he blamed for bankrupting his family by taking excessive donations from his mother.
The incident drew fresh attention to the group, which has a list of court judgments against it for its fund-raising methods. It also led to revelations about the extent of its links to the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Japan’s Kishida Orders Probe of Church as Support Slides
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been trying to distance himself from the church in a bid to shore up his ailing public support less than a year ahead of an LDP leadership election. He told reporters Thursday the decision to seek the court order had been “based on the law and objective facts.”
A poll by Jiji Press published Thursday found that more than 78% of respondents were in favor of dissolving the group, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Just over 3% said they opposed the idea.
Abe Killing Puts Pressure on Lawmakers’ Unification Church Ties
Culture minister Masahito Moriyama said the group was found to have damaged peoples’ lives in Japan since the 1980s.
The government is also mulling a law that would enable seizure of assets belonging to the group to make sure funds are available for victim compensation, TV network ANN reported Wednesday, citing a source close to the matter. ANN has reported the estimated assets are worth about ¥10 billion ($66.8 million).
A dissolution order would be the third in Japan since World War II, one of them being the Aum Shinrikyo death cult that carried out a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
–With assistance from Gareth Allan and Takashi Hirokawa.
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