Cult killers get seven years

Agence France-Presse/March 26, 2002

Two Japanese members of a faith healing cult were sentenced to seven years each in prison for the deaths through neglect of a young boy and a baby, whose corpses were then allowed to mummify in the hopes they would come back to life.

The Miyazaki District Court passed the sentence on Junichiro Higashi, 58, head of the private, cult-style Kaeda Juku school in Miyazaki, southwestern Japan, and Akemi Togashi, a 51-year-old female senior staff member of the school.

The pair were found guilty of taking into their custody in December 1997 a six-year-old boy, after promising to his parents that they would cure his acute kidney problem without medication.

During the trial, the prosecution said the defendants tried to exorcise the boy with prayers but he died the following month.

The parents demanded the return of the boy's body but the defendants locked it in a room at Higashi's luxury villa, insisting that the boy would come back to life.

The prosecution said that the defendants had blamed the boy's illness on "karma" and barred the parents from using drugs or hospitals which they said were "full of evils."

The two were also found guilty of causing the death through neglect of a premature baby, who was born at the school in 1999, by failng to provide necessary medical treatment to the infant, the ruling said.

The bodies of both the six-year-old boy and the premature baby were found mummified.

"It was an extremely cruel crime," presiding judge Heinai Komatsu told the court.

Higashi and Togashi abandoned and mummified the bodies "because the accused were afraid that if the bodies were discovered, they would lose the trust of their school pupils," who believed Higashi had supernatural powers, the judge said.

The case was the second involving a cult and mummified bodies in as many months.

In February the 63-year-old Japanese leader of the Life Space cult was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the murder of a stroke victim who was bound as part of a "religious cure" and whose mummified body was found in a hotel in November 1999.

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