Soka University in Japan trains students for government employment exams and touts their success. Might a presence of followers in the civil service be of more than spiritual use to Soka Gakkai? Consider this case from the files of the Tokyo civil courts.
In 1995 Akiyo Asaki, a politician in the Tokyo suburb of Higashi Murayama, complained vociferously that all city garbage collection contracts were going to Soka Gakkai-affiliated companies.
After receiving death threats, Asaki plunged off a building. When police arrived at the scene, they recognized her and, even though she was still alive, kept her from getting medical help, according to her daughter, Naoko Asaki. She says that when her mother died, the police tried to have her body immediately cremated.
The prosecutor's initial investigator, Masao Nobuta, and the officer in charge of assigning him, Hiroshi Yoshimura, were both members of the sect. They said Asaki's death was a suicide and linked it to her being questioned about the shoplifting of an item of women's clothing.
This explanation, seized on by Soka to counter her family's accusations of murder, became the focal point of a civil court crossfire of defamation cases, several won by Soka. Autopsy evidence, allegedly withheld by police, was presented to show large bruises under her arms, suggesting she had been dragged. Naoko Asaki maintains her mother had left a phone message in a tense, fearful voice before she died. One court ruled inconclusively on a suicide. Soka spokesmen say the religious affiliation of the investigators in the case was a random circumstance and that, in any case, others reviewed their work.
Probes of the death petered out after Soka's Komeito party joined a coalition government in Tokyo. Naoko Asaki is cynical: "Do you think a government that depends on Soka Gakkai is going to investigate?"
Copyright © 2004 Forbes.com