Tokyo court fines ex-Unification Church for ignoring inquiries

A Tokyo court has ordered a religious group formerly known as the Unification Church to pay a fine for not responding properly to government inquiries.

The education and culture ministry has been investigating the group's alleged questionable marketing practices and soliciting of large donations from its followers.

The ministry exercised its legal authority to question the group seven times on more than 500 points, but it claims the group refused to answer more than 100 of them.

It therefore asked the Tokyo District Court to impose a fine on the group as an administrative punishment.

The group had argued that the ministry's exercising of its authority of inquiry is illegal, as it does not meet the requirements for a dissolution order.

On Tuesday, Presiding Judge Suzuki Kenya said the group appears to have repeated illegal activities that violate the numerous victims' rights to their assets and personalities. He said he suspects the group of legal violations.

The judge ordered the group's leader, Tanaka Tomihiro, to pay a fine of 100,000 yen, or about 660 dollars.

It is the first time a court ordered a fine in connection with the government's authority of inquiry.

The group is expected to immediately appeal the decision.

The Tokyo District Court has also been deliberating on a request from the education and culture ministry for an order for the group to disband.