2.Suing your own parents to end abduction

Tomoya and Rie Imari

"It would be a lie to say that we didn't have any hesitation to sue our parents. But we think this was the only way to protect our family and faith, to put an end to all the abduction and confinement threats that confront the Unification Church members, and to establish true freedom of faith in Japan. We felt that we would have to risk some damage on our part, in order to win this fight."

Mr. and Mrs. Tomoya and Rie Imari shared their feelings at home in the Kanagawa Prefecture, about suing their own parents on charges of abduction and confinement.

Rie was abducted and confined twice by her family and some pastors. When it occurred the first time in late October 1995, she managed to jump off the porch of the apartment where she was locked up for a few days, and miraculously got away.

After her escape, she officially registered her marriage with Tomoya. She gave her parents and family only her cell phone number and her husband's address in an attempt to conceal her whereabouts.

However, her younger sister whom Rie was witnessing to was also abducted and confined at the similar period as Rie was. Her sister ended up leaving the church. This fact was kept secret from Rie, and they carried out their second abduction at her sister's birthday party.

It was around 10:30 pm on January 10, 1997. After celebrating her sister's birthday at a dinner in Kawasaki City, Rie stepped out into the parking lot, where she was attacked by several adults, who constrained her arms and legs and lifted her body up into a waiting car.

Tomoya had left the restaurant a little earlier and started his car engine, when he heard a cry. Seeing his wife being assaulted, he immediately went to rescue her, only to be held down by two men from both sides. His knees hit the asphalt ground hard and started bleeding. His left hand was also blood-stained from scraping the ground.

At that moment, both Rie and Tomoya heard Rie's sister crying. "I'm sorry, my big brother!". They understood that she was instrumental in this abduction scheme. Even after the car drove away with Rie, the two men who attacked Tomoya did not leave the scene, making sure Tomoya would not follow her.

Tomoya immediately asked the restaurant to call the police. When the police officer came and heard what had happened, the officer said, "If it were a stranger that kidnapped your wife, we would immediately have to act. But since her parents were with her, we can't do anything about this. But we can treat it as an injury case since you are injured."

The police went to Rie's parents' home, carried out street inquiries and visited the Totsuka Church as part of the criminal investigation for the injury case, trying to find any clue as to where Rie was. Rie was moved in three different places during that time while the police investigation came to a dead end.

In this abduction and confinement case, Assistant Pastor Sakae Kurotori of the Totsuka Church, United Church of Christ in Japan in Yokohama, and former Pastor Yoshio Shimizu of the Ota-hachiman Church, UCCJ in Gunma, were directly involved.

Rie was transferred from one apartment to another in the Kanto area, and all the doors in these apartments had two extra locks and chains besides the ones that were already there, in order to prevent her from escaping. The windows were covered with translucent vinyl and had locks that couldn't be opened from inside without a key, and the locks in the closets and bathrooms were taken off.

Her privacy was intruded, and being told all kinds of slanders and defamations about the UC. Many abuse and mockery to her as well as threats and fear caused her rapid weight loss from 53Kg down to 43Kg. She realized that resisting them would be difficult in enduring spiritually and physically. So, she decided to make believe and said, "I was wrong." She was freed about two weeks later.

While she was pretending to leave the Church, she found something. Families scheming abduction held meetings and rehearsed many times with each participant well aware of one's role in real situations. Rie's father had explained his plans to the local police, where an officer who met the father said, "Be careful!" If members lost or gave up faith, they were obliged to participate in activities against UC.

Five-month confinement made Rie very weak spiritually and physically, making it hard for her to live in a normal life, let alone to work outside. She had nightmares of her parents appearing and chasing after her. When she was out somewhere and if someone started running, she felt terrified by an obsession of someone coming to get her. She commuted a clinic and devoted herself to recover.

Tomoya encouraged her and said "While you are in your dream, don't escape from your parents but confront them!" As she gradually regained her composure, she sued her parents and the pastors in civil and criminal cases against their acts of violence, menace, abduction and confinement.

In March 2002, the criminal charge was dismissed due to insufficient suspicion. The Imaris also lost the civil case both at the local court and the high court. The acts of Rie's parents and the pastors were regarded as follows:

"(Their actions) cannot be conceived to constitute an illegal abduction, confinement and forced deprogramming away from the Unification Church as against the plaintiff's will." (from the ruling by the Yokohama District Court)

Actually, there were suspicious moves such as changing the chief justice and judges at the local court while in progress or the judgment date was put off by two days. Imari's lawyer expressed frustration, saying, "Were it other religious organization, we would win perfectly...."

At the high court, it ended up with a disappointing close. The judgment was too miserable to the Imari couple, who pointed it out in the petition of appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court remained silent on the appeal for a year. And its conclusion was an "amicable settlement", which Imari's lawyer described quite unusual at that level. He saw such a decision by the highest court only once in his career.

Nonetheless, in March 2006, the Imari couple reached the settlement with their relatives at the Supreme Court. The first article of settlement stated; "Both parties will respect religious freedom and values of other party and will not interfere." It was an article accepting Imari's claim.

Looking back the trial, Tomoya said, "The trial was not a fight nor a revenge. It will not make a fatal severance in parent-child relationship. It is quite different from violent acts they committed. Rather, it is an opportunity of talking each other out legally.

The anti-UC group has utilized mass media well and made up 'public opinions' portraying the UC so terrible like a monster. We hope that the church will break down the false 'public opinions' one by one. Our opponents spread rumors around to the effect that "UC members are in the state of mind control, hardly think normally", thus justifying their abduction and confinement. It is not true.

On the contrary, I heard many times about what they have done with violence to destroy personality of many members and left severe scars in many families as a result of their forcible method of breaking faith. Disguising as "parental heart", not an individual but the whole family gets serious damages like being sent to 'hell'. It should never be allowed."

Rie said about a pastor whom she observed while pretending to have left the church as follows:

"The pastor applied a remote control over the victims' families. They used the same apartment rooms for different families. He instructed who to leave and who to come. One day, I was made to accompany him to the spot of deprogramming at his direction. He had so many keys that he had difficulty to unlock the room's lock. "

"The pastor asked families to report on the state of members in order to ascertain that the confined members leave the church. Also, based on the report, he directed the families to apply effective methods. In my case, my family began saying, "Please tell me what you think because I want to know you" or "Explain to me about DP" doggedly. In retrospect, that was merely a ploy to open my mind, but I began to think, "Maybe, they mean that."

They let me talk. Then, a booklet published by the United Church of Christ in Japan was brought. At first, I was told, "Please explain this to your father and mother", so I did. Then they would say, "We want a minister to explain to us." My family wanted him to be there earlier to persuade me into quitting the church. But they could not tell a truth. Therefore, they had to say in a roundabout way. "We want a minister to explain about the booklet." Our talking went round and round in a circle.

"I could not go out nor contact anyone. I wondered if this is a law-abiding country while I was confined, experiencing indescribable sense of emptiness. I want the police to deal with this strictly.

Even if the very person going through the ordeal cried out for help, they did not do anything, just by saying, 'It's a matter of parents-child discussion.' I hope they will deal with this with their dignity."

Tomoya talked calmly their experience but he could not win the court case after putting all of his energy. The long battle since the first abduction in 1995 has left him a big spiritual damage. He is now suffering with depression, unable to work and on welfare at the advice of a social worker from the municipality office.

Rie, his wife, said that Tomoya began to suffer in July 2005 and had to take a sick leave. "It was at the local court that we had to encounter with relatives and anti-UC group. Reading their false claims and documents irrelevant to the case, he got furious and dejected. A cross-examination by Lawyer Yamaguchi and Kito was very severe and prolonged.

Moreover, there were changes of the judges and two-time postponement of the judgment. Worse still, we lost the case in the end. We kept running ever since the confinement till that verdict at the local court."

Tomoya is presently a handicapped person with the second-level mental disorder. He receives disability pension and the shortage is covered by the welfare aid. Harm of abduction and confinement still lingers deep in the Imari family.

Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion