Lawyers for former followers of Unification Church demand return of 2.6 bil. yen

NHK, Japan/May 25, 2023SBS Dateline, Australia/March 5, 2023

Lawyers working for people who claim they were victimized by the religious group widely known as the Unification Church say the number of people demanding a return of their donated money has reached nearly 100, with total claims worth around 2.6 billion yen, or 19 million dollars.

The team of lawyers started negotiating with the religious group in February on behalf of people who claim they were forced to make donations to the group or buy expensive items from it. Since then, the lawyers have asked the group to pay 70 people, mainly former followers of the group, total refunds of about 14 million dollars.

The lawyers told a news conference on Thursday that they have recently demanded 5 million dollars more on behalf of another 29 people including former followers of the group.

That has brought the total amount of money claimed to 19 million dollars, involving 99 people.

The lawyers said that in most of the cases, the religious group persuaded people to join without telling them its true identity and urged them to donate a lot of money by saying that their families would suffer otherwise.

One of the lawyers, Tsukada Yuji, pointed out that they have received complaints that these practices followed by the religious group have led to families breaking apart or even destroyed. He said the group's headquarters must be held accountable for such consequences.

The religious group now calls itself the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. The group says that it has started looking into the facts behind the claims that were filed earlier, and issued its responses in some cases.

The group also says a significant number of claims filed have already passed the 20-year limitation imposed on the right to compensation under Japan's Civil Code.

The lawyers say it will consider legal action if negotiations with the group do not resolve the refund issue.

The man accused in the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in July 2022 has told investigators that he targeted Abe because he thought the former prime minister had ties with the religious group.

Yamagami Tetsuya has said his family had suffered financial damage as a result of his mother making huge donations over a long period of time as a follower of the group.

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