Four people, including members of an AUM Shinrikyo group that continues to follow in the footsteps of AUM founder and convicted murderer Shoko Asahara, were arrested Thursday on suspicion of beating a female follower to death with a bamboo sword, police said.
Among the four arrested suspects were Yuko Kitazawa, 40, the leader of the Keroyon Group, and follower Masataka Fujibayashi, 35.
The 36-year-old woman who died was a member of the group, which formed over divisions relating to cult leadership when Asahara was arrested in 1995.
Investigators accuse the suspects of killing the woman by unleashing a beating on her that included hitting her legs with a bamboo sword as part of the group’s “training” on the afternoon of Sept. 10.
After the killing, the woman’s corpse was transferred to an apartment in Tokyo’s Nerima-ku, and on Sept. 11, Fujibayashi filed a report with police saying, “We found her dead,” law enforcers said. Members of the group claimed that she had died of an illness, but police concluded that she had died as part of the group’s training after Fujibayashi reportedly told them, “We hit her with bamboos swords to drive the karma out of her.”
“Karma removal” was one of the practices the splinter group had inherited from AUM. AUM Shinrikyo changed its name to Aleph after members of the cult carried out sarin gas attacks on Tokyo subway trains, killing 12 people and harming thousands of others.
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Police have reportedly received information that the female follower’s sister died in a bathroom of a group facility four years ago after receiving “thermotherapy” in which she was immersed in scalding water with a temperature of nearly 50 degrees Celsius. Public safety authorities are working to uncover the group’s activities.