• Kyodo

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The guru of a “self-enlightenment” group blamed for the death of a member whose mummified body was found in a Narita hotel last year pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of murder.

Speaking in his first hearing before the Chiba District Court, Koji Takahashi, founder of Life Space, pleaded not guilty to murdering Shinichi Kobayashi, 66, of Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture.

According to prosecutors, Takahashi and his accomplices took Kobayashi from a hospital in Hyogo Prefecture, where he was receiving treatment for a cerebral hemorrhage, to the Narita hotel even though they knew Kobayashi might die without medical treatment.

After taking Kobayashi to a room at the hotel on July 2 last year, Takahashi patted the victim in his self-styled act of healing. Kobayashi died the following morning, the prosecutors said.

Members of Life Space, following the orders of Takahashi, left Kobayashi’s body on the bed and kept records of its decomposition for four months — until hotel workers alerted police and the corpse was found in November.

Before and after his arrest, Takahashi insisted Kobayashi “was not dead yet” and only died because police removed his body from the hotel.

Kobayashi’s 31-year-old son, Kenji, also a member of Life Space, has also been indicted for his role in the death of his father.

“I flatly deny all the charges,” Takahashi told the court. After the prosecution statement, his lawyers said their client’s action “does not constitute murder.”