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Friday, December 02, 2022

Unification Church distances itself from Abe murder

TOKYO ( Associated Press) – The Unification Church has confirmed that the mother of the man accused of killing former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is a member of the Unification Church and said it is cooperating with a police investigation into the possible motives.

Police say the suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he wanted to kill Abe because of his apparent ties to an organization. Some Japanese media outlets pointed to her mother’s donations to the Church and her subsequent bankruptcy as the motive for the murder.

Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the Unification Church’s Japan branch, declined to comment on specific details about the donations on Monday. Without referring to any particular individual, he confirmed that some people made generous donations, but emphasized that none were forced.

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Also known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the Church was founded in South Korea by the late Sun Myung Moon. He is known to have hundreds of thousands of followers in Japan.

“Trying to understand how this hatred could have led to the murder is totally baffling,” Tanaka said.

Abe was not a member of the Church but may have spoken at affiliate group events, Tanaka added.

The former prime minister was shot dead on Friday in the western Japanese city of Nara while campaigning for Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Videos and photos taken by people in the crowd show the suspect pulling out a homemade weapon. Two shots were fired. Abe passed out and later died in a hospital.

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Funeral services would be held on Tuesday at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

“This is something that should never have happened, and I am deeply outraged,” Tanaka said, bowing deeply. “My heart aches that Japan has lost a beloved and respected leader.”

Tanaka dismissed the media reports as speculation, stressing that the motive for the murder is still unknown.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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