Court rules on Aum cult founder's ashes

NHK World/July 5, 2021

Japan's top court has turned down an appeal by the fourth daughter of the late Aum Shinrikyo cult leader Asahara Shoko requesting possession of her father's cremated remains.

The Supreme Court has instead ruled that the second daughter of Asahara, whose real name was Matsumoto Chizuo, can receive the ashes.

The ownership of the ashes is being closely watched as public security officials are concerned they could become an object of worship for Matsumoto's followers. That includes members of Aleph, a successor group of Aum Shinrikyo.

Matsumoto's cremated remains have been kept at the Tokyo Detention House, where he was executed in 2018 along with six former members of the doomsday cult that carried out the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

The Justice Ministry had considered handing the ashes to his fourth daughter, in line with his wishes. She has reportedly cut ties with the cult.

She has expressed readiness to have the cremated remains scattered in the ocean.

However, Matsumoto's wife and his four other children submitted a formal request to the Justice Minister to have the remains handed over to them.

They argued that it was not possible for Matsumoto to designate a specific person to receive his ashes as he was mentally unfit when he was on death row.

Seeking possession of the cult leader's remains, both the second daughter and fourth daughter took the case to court.

The Tokyo Family Court last year granted the second daughter possession of the remains. Specifics of the closed-door hearings remain unknown.

After the Tokyo High Court in March upheld the decision, the fourth daughter, Matsumoto's widow and second son, took the case to the top court.

In the ruling by the Number 3 petty bench of the Supreme Court, presiding justice Tokura Saburo turned down the appeal.

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