• Kyodo

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The Supreme Court has ruled that the second daughter of executed Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara can take possession of his cremated remains and hair, putting an end to a long-running family row over his ashes.

The ruling finalized the decisions of lower courts. The public security authority is closely monitoring how the remains will be treated once they are handed over to the 40-year-old daughter, amid concerns the ashes and hair will become objects of worship for followers of Aleph, a successor group of Aum Shinrikyo.

In a unanimous decision dated Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed appeals by Asahara’s fourth daughter, 32, his widow, 62, and second son, 27, against the rulings in favor of the second daughter issued by the Tokyo Family Court in September 2020 and the Tokyo High Court in March this year.

Asahara’s ashes have been stored at the Tokyo Detention House since he was hanged in July 2018 along with 12 other members of the doomsday cult for crimes including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, which left 14 people dead and more than 6,000 others injured.

Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, had named his fourth daughter as the one to receive his body when a detention center official asked him immediately before his execution, sources close to the matter have said.

Asahara and his wife had two sons and four daughters.

Although the fourth daughter had expressed her intention to take possession of the remains, the second daughter and other family members had argued it was not possible for Asahara to designate a specific person as he “had difficulties communicating when he was on death row.”

Aum evolved from a yoga school established by Asahara in 1984 and had about 1,400 live-in followers and over 10,000 lay followers at its height.

Although the cult went bankrupt in 1996, three successor groups — Aleph and two splinter groups — are still active.

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