Japan cult guru indicted in mummified body case

Reuters/March 14, 2000

Tokyo -- Japanese prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged the guru of a bizarre cult with murdering a follower whose mummified body was found in a hotel room last year.

Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, indicted Koji Takahashi, leader of a cult called "Life Space," in connection with the death of a 66-year-old follower, Japanese media said.

The mummified body of the follower was found in a hotel near Tokyo's Narita airport in November.

The 61-year-old Takahashi, who founded Life Space in 1983, believed he could cure illness by patting people on the head.

The cult said the follower was still alive and receiving treatment for a brain haemorrhage by getting pats on the head from Takahashi.

Japanese authorities have been cracking down on cults recently amid fears that membership in fringe anti-social religious groups is rising.

The doomsday group accused of a fatal 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system was placed under surveillance by the government on February 1 under new laws.

Japanese investigators have since raided several branches of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult despite a lawsuit filed by the group claiming the government was violating its freedoms.

In January, the group announced drastic reforms, including a name change to "Aleph," the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway killed 12 and injured thousands.

Cult leader Shoko Asahara, currently on trial for his alleged role in the cult's crimes, preached that the world was ending and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for various calamities.

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