Pressure mounts on the Moonies after it was confirmed Shinzo Abe’s assassin’s mother was a member of the cult and had given them over £600,000.
Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was allegedly motivated to kill Mr Abe at a July 8 election rally by a grudge he harbored over his mother’s finances and claimed he and his relatives had nothing after joining the well-known South Korean Unification Church had given money than the “Moonies”.
Yamagami’s mother reportedly sold her house to donate £600,000 to a church the former PM was said to be close to, bankrupting her family in the process.
Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was allegedly motivated by a grudge against the Moonies to kill Mr Abe at a July 8 campaign rally
Abe praised the church’s activities during a speech in September, although he is believed not to have been a member
WHAT ARE THE MOONIES?
The Unification Church is a religious movement founded in 1954 by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Pusan, South Korea.
The church is known for its mass weddings and teaches a unique Christian theology.
It has caused much controversy and its members are commonly derided as “Moonies”.
According to Moon, the world was created from God’s inner nature, which is reflected in the “dual” expressions of life (causal, male) and (resultant, female).
Moon believes that the purpose of creation is to experience the joy of love.
Controversy surrounding the church led to congressional hearings, and in 1982 Moon was convicted of tax evasion.
His supporters, including many leading church leaders, saw the trial as an example of religious persecution by the government.
In 1994, on the 40th anniversary of the Church’s founding, Moon announced the formation of the International Federation for World Peace, which assumed many of the functions formerly performed by the Church.
The church is known for its mass weddings and teaches a unique Christian theology
The church has confirmed the mother is a member after announcing a police investigation, but has not released any information about the money she has donated.
Abe praised the church’s activities during a speech in September, although he is believed not to have been a member.
His grandfather, former Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, is said to have helped the anti-communist church get established in Japan.
Abe had reportedly sent messages at events held by church affiliates and expressed support for his global peace movement.
Moon, who spoke fluent Japanese, founded an anti-communist group, the International Federation for the Defeat of Communism, in Japan in the late 1960s and developed ties with Japanese politicians, according to church publications.
It comes as Japanese police said they found a number of suspected gunshot marks on a building near the site of the fatal shooting.
They appear to be from the first shot fired from a suspect’s powerful homemade weapon, which Mr Abe narrowly missed.
Mr Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, who remained influential after resigning two years ago due to ill health, was shot dead on Friday while delivering a campaign speech near a crowded train station in Nara, western Japan.
A bullet from a second shot, fired seconds after the first behind Mr Abe, hit him just as he turned, apparently in response to the initial sound of the blast.
Yamagami was arrested on Friday and can be detained for up to three weeks for police investigations before prosecutors decide on charges.
On Wednesday, police found several suspected bullet marks in the wall of a building about 90 meters from the scene.
Police said they believe bullets, or fragments of bullets from the first shot, hit the wall after narrowly missing Mr Abe and piercing a polling vehicle parked nearby.
The marks on the wall and inside the vehicle match, police said, suggesting they were made by the same weapon.
Police seized the homemade gun the suspect allegedly used to kill Mr Abe.
The bonded twin-barreled 40 cm cannon, which consists of two iron tubes, was designed to fire multiple bullets per shot, police said.
Police also allegedly confiscated several other similar weapons from the suspect’s home.
Mr Abe’s death has shed light on his and his ruling party’s ties to the Unification Church, known for its conservative and anti-Communist stance and mass weddings.
Tomihiro Tanaka, leader of the Japan branch of the South Korea-based church, confirmed Monday that Yamagami’s mother is a member.
Mr Tanaka said Mr Abe is not a member but may have spoken to groups linked to the church.
Police inspect a sidewalk near where former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot in Nara, western Japan
Crowds crowd the streets outside Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple as the hearse carrying Shinzo Abe’s body arrives after a private funeral service attended by family and friends
Police inspected a building related to the church in Nara this week after the suspect told investigators he had fired a homemade gun the day before the shooting to find out how powerful it would be.
They found several holes in the wall of an independent office next door, which the suspect may have assumed was part of the church, police said.
Mr Abe’s killing has rocked Japan, one of the safest nations in the world with some of the strictest gun laws.
Police have acknowledged possible omissions in guarding Mr Abe and announced plans to set up a task force to review security procedures.
Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, packed the sidewalks outside Zojoji Temple in downtown Tokyo on Tuesday to bid farewell to Mr Abe, whose nationalist views have spurred the ruling party’s conservative policies.