Religious group confirms alleged Abe killer’s mother was member

Religious group confirms alleged Abe killer’s mother was member

Tetsuya Yamagami, suspected of killing former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, is escorted by police officers as he is taken to prosecutors at Nara-nishi police station in Nara, western Japan, on Sunday. (Kyodo via REUTERS photo)
Tetsuya Yamagami, suspected of killing former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, is escorted by police officers as he is taken to prosecutors at Nara-nishi police station in Nara, western Japan, on Sunday. (Kyodo via REUTERS photo)

The Japanese affiliate of a South Korean-founded religious group confirmed the mother of the person charged with assassinating former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a member, as claimed by his alleged killer.

The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, formerly known as the Unification Church, held a briefing for selected Japanese news organisations on Monday, according to a member of the public relations staff at the religious group’s Tokyo office, who asked not to be identified by name. 

At the briefing, the head of the organization confirmed the mother of the man indicted for Abe’s murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, was a member since the 1990s and attended events once a month or so, Japanese broadcaster FNN reported on Monday. The official, who wasn’t identified, declined to comment on donations, and said Abe had contributed to events hosted by a related organisation, the report said. 

Separately, a representative of the organisation in Seoul said by phone that Abe himself wasn’t a member. The US branch of the group issued a statement condemning the attack and saying: “Guns have no place in our religious beliefs or practices.”

Abe, the country’s longest-serving premier, was fatally shot while on the campaign trail in the western city of Nara on Friday. His death sent shock waves through a country where gun violence is rare and generated an outpouring of sympathy from around the globe. 

Domestic media reports from Kyodo News and others have said the suspect blamed an unspecified religious group for his family’s financial woes after his mother became an enthusiastic member and made large donations, resulting in her bankruptcy. 

The 41-year-old had wanted to kill a senior member of the group, but targeted Abe because he believed the former leader had close connections to the religion, according to the Yomiuri newspaper and other media. The alleged shooter denied any political motivation for the killing, public broadcaster NHK and other media said, citing police. 

Founded in South Korea by Sun Myung Moon in May 1954, the religious organisation spread all around the world, including Japan and the US. Moon, who declared that he and his wife were messiahs, has been at the centre of controversy and convicted of tax evasion in the US back in the 1980s.

The church is known for organising arranged marriages and holding mass wedding ceremonies. The group says on its website that it’s “a duly registered religious nonprofit organisation” and it’s focused on “creating world peace through the family: the school of love.” 

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken paid a brief visit to Tokyo on Monday to deliver a personal letter of condolence from President Joe Biden to current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida’s ruling coalition won a solid victory in Sunday’s election, but the atmosphere has remained sombre following the death of his former boss just two days earlier. 

A wake is to be held for Abe in Tokyo on Monday evening, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said in a statement. The funeral will be on Tuesday attended by family only, NHK reported.  

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