MIYAZAKI - Two members of an occult group accused of abandoning the mummified body of a boy pleaded not guilty to charges laid against them in the Miyazaki District Court on Monday. Junichiro Higashi, 56, leader of the Kaeda-juku group, and senior member Akemi Togashi, 49, denied charges of death caused by desertion, and abandoning a dead body, in the first hearing of their trial following the gruesome discovery by police in January.
The defendants denied responsibility for the boy's death, saying his mother was with him at the juku school. They added that they were treating him.
The pair also denied receiving a request from the boy's parents to hand over the corpse.
Investigators believe the 6-year-old boy died from respiratory failure in January 1998, after failing to receive adequate medical treatment while in the group's care.
The group was given custody of the boy, who had kidney disease, in December 1997, and are believed to have told his parents that they could heal him.
However, group members did not seek medical treatment for the boy and merely prayed for him, while his condition worsened, prosecutors said.
The boy's mummified body was found in a locked room at the group's compound after the father of the boy contacted police.
In seminars, the group claimed that modern medicine could not truly cure illness, and that they could purge from patients the evil that caused sickness.
They also said that they could quickly cure patients who visited the cult.
The group's view of life and death is expected to become a focus of the trial as the boy's actual time of death is being investigated.
The group is believed to have locked the mummified body of the child in a room to prevent a loss of control over the boy's parents.
In court proceedings, prosecutors quoted the accused as saying the boy's sickness was a fate passed down through generations in the family.
The defendants allegedly told the boy's parents that medicine is poison and they could not guarantee the boy's health if his parents took him to the hospital.
Kaeda-juku was founded in 1995 by Higashi, who claimed that he was able to cure patients without touching them through "acts of treatment" and medicinal rites.
MIYAZAKI (Kyodo) The leader of a cult along with one of the group's senior members pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of abandonment resulting in the death of a 6-year-old boy, whose mummified body was found in Miyazaki in January.
Junichiro Higashi, 56, head of Kaeda Juku, and Akemi Togashi, 49, the sect's supervising accountant, denied responsibility for the boy's death during their first trial hearing before the Miyazaki District Court.
The defendants said the boy's mother was with him at the cult's facility in Miyazaki, adding that they therefore were not the ones legally responsible for his care. They also claimed they did not cause the boy's death.
Higashi and Togashi were given custody of the boy, who had a kidney disease, in late December 1997 by the child's parents. The parents asked the pair to cure their son, according to the indictment.
The defendants told the court they were treating the boy and carefully laid his body in state after he died.
They admitted having locked the door to the room where the boy's body was kept and said the body became mummified naturally. They denied, however, deceiving the boy's parents by saying the boy could be cured and preventing them from seeking medical assistance.
Higashi and Togashi allegedly told the parents they could cure the boy, but then merely prayed for his recovery and did not provide medical care as his condition worsened.
The boy died of respiratory failure around Jan. 13, 1998, according to the indictment.
The parents asked for the body but the defendants refused to hand it over, telling them they would resurrect the boy, the indictment says.
Higashi and Togashi claimed the parents never asked for the boy's body.
The defendants kept the body in a locked room for almost two years in a house that served as the group's headquarters, prosecutors said. The mummified corpse was found by police Jan. 20.
Police are also investigating the death of a newborn baby whose mummified remains were found along with the boy's body.
According to police, the baby was born prematurely at the house to a member of the cult in February 1999 and died several days later.
Police have said they suspect Higashi and Togashi left the baby to die.
Kaeda Juku members have lived in the house over the past five years, the house's owner and neighbors said.
About 20 people lived in the house during the group's heyday. Higashi held monthly meetings at the site, at which people gathered from all over the country, they said.
Watching millennial and apocalyptic cults in the year 2000 - Index Page
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