Kyoto -- A clergyman in Yawata, Kyoto Prefecture, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing seven girls in his congregation from 2001 to 2004.
Tamotsu Kin, 62, who headed the Central Church of the Holy God, sexually abused the girls, ranging in age from 12 to 16, in his office on 22 occasions between March 2001 and September 2004, telling them they would languish perpetually in hell if they resisted, the court said.
“The girls believed they would go to hell if they resisted the defendant, who was the closest existence to God for them, and thus they had no choice but to obey him,” presiding Judge Takeshi Uegaki said.
Kin, a Japan-born South Korean national, preached under the name Tamotsu Nagata.
After handing down the ruling, Uegaki told Kin, “You should make clear the facts and apologize to the victims.”
Kin has not apologized to the victims, though he has admitted sexually abusing them.
Prosecutors demanded a 20-year sentence, the maximum penalty for the crime, arguing it is inexcusable that he repeatedly molested the girls by using his position.
During a trial session in August, Kin admitted abusing the seven girls but contested charges that he put the victims into a situation where they were unable to resist.
His attorneys also argued he did not control the girls’ minds by preaching to them, but the court dismissed this after deeming Kin’s remarks as not being credible.
Following the ruling, Kin’s lawyers repeated their position at a news conference, saying: “The defendant never made the girls obey him. What he did was preach, which must be allowed within the limit of religious freedom.”
A support group for Kin’s victims basically welcomed the ruling, given that Kin was given the maximum prison term, but also expressed mixed emotions.
“The ruling is just, but I am not completely happy” because he did not admit that he psychologically controlled his victims, Hisoka Murakami, head of the group and a clergyman who has offered counseling to Kin’s former followers, told a separate briefing.
The support group said the victims have largely regained their peace of mind and are beginning to lead normal lives. None has shown symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, Murakami said.
According to Kyoto Prefectural Police, the church at one time had about 3,000 members. Many left after allegations surfaced in December 2004 that female followers were being assaulted.