The body of executed Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara was cremated Monday and his remains will likely be kept in Tokyo Detention House for some time as officials try to determine who will take possession of them, sources said.
Who gains control of Asahara’s remains has been a point of concern since he and six other former senior members of the doomsday cult were hanged Friday for crimes including the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, in which 29 people died and over 6,000 fell ill.
The sources said Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, reportedly told the detention center that he wanted his remains to be handed over to his fourth daughter, aged 29.
However, Asahara’s 59-year-old wife and some of his other children want to take possession of his ashes and submitted a written request to that effect dated Saturday to Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, according to their lawyer.
After being told by the detention house that Asahara had not designated them as the ones to take possession of his remains, the wife’s side asserted that was “inconceivable.”
They claimed that Asahara had no ability to designate anyone, citing a document dated May 10 and submitted by a doctor at the prison saying it was impossible to have a conversation with him.
As a rule in Japan, a person designated in advance by a death row inmate to receive the remains is given priority.
According to the Justice Ministry, Asahara’s family agreed to the cremation.
Asahara’s fourth daughter is one of six children — two sons and four daughters — that he had with his wife, herself a former senior member of the cult.
In an attempt to sever ties with her parents, the fourth daughter had filed a request to nullify their right to inherit her property in the event of her death. A family court granted the request last November.
At a news conference in Tokyo following that decision, the daughter stressed that she was not in contact with her family or former cult followers.
Law enforcement authorities are keen to know who will take possession of Asahara’s remains amid fears they might be used to rally his followers and provoke retaliation against the government and society.
Police and the Public Security Intelligence Agency are reportedly stepping up their monitoring of members of Aum’s successor organizations — Aleph and two splinter groups — who might come to regard Asahara as “divine” following his execution.
The authorities believe Asahara still exerts a strong influence over the groups.
The body of Masami Tsuchiya, 53, one of the six other cultists hanged Friday, was also cremated Monday, according to the sources.
Asahara and the six others executed were among 13 people on death row for their roles in the series of crimes perpetrated by the doomsday cult.