Nov 7, 2018

Cult founder’s ashes still being held 4 months after execution

Naoki Urano and Yukiko Sakamoto
November 7, 2018

A family squabble over the remains of Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto have kept them and his belongings in a prison for four months after his execution amid fears they could become objects of worship.

Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, and six of his top disciples were hanged on July 6 for a mass murder spree in the 1980s and 1990s that included a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 that killed 13 and sickened thousands.

According to sources, Matsumoto left a few boxes of belongings, including clothing and books, at the Tokyo Detention House where he met his fate, as well as headgear he was wearing at the time of his arrest that cultists used for spiritual training.

When asked by a prison officer what he would like to be done with his body and possessions just before the execution, he named his fourth daughter as the recipient, according to the detention house.

However, Matsumoto's wife and second and third daughters have filed a formal complaint with the Justice Ministry, saying it would have been impossible for Matsumoto "to name a particular person as the receiver, given his mental state."

The fourth daughter has expressed her intention to scatter her father's ashes and remaining bones into the Pacific Ocean so the items do not become objects of worship and the place of interment does not turn into a "holy site." She has also asked authorities for assistance with doing so, as she is concerned that followers might try to take possession of their guru's remains.

"Among (Matsumoto's) belongings, there might be items of religious significance," said Taro Takimoto, the attorney of the fourth daughter. "We want the authorities to take care of the disposal."

The wife’s side declined to be interviewed on her husband's belongings by The Asahi Shimbun.

Under laws related to penal facilities, the remains and belongings of an executed inmate must be passed on to a person named by the prisoner. In the case of a family dispute, ownership is decided in accordance with inheritance provisions of Civil Law.

If the dispute between the wife's side and her fourth daughter continues, a legal case could be opened, with Matsumoto's last wishes likely being the point at issue.

The Public Security Intelligence Agency, an external bureau of the Justice Ministry, is closely monitoring the situation, as it is also concerned that the cult founder's remains, headgear and other articles could become symbolic objects of worship.

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