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A self-proclaimed exorcist has been arrested by police in Japan over his alleged role in the death of seven-year-old Shun Imai. Following Shun's hospitalization soon after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes mellitis in November 2014, the boy's parents sought help from Hiroji Tondo. Tondo, a 60-year-old exorcist from Japan's Tochigi Prefecture, had impressed Shun's mother with his claim of being able to heal incurable diseases through the power of exorcism.
After hiring Tondo in December and paying him several million yen (a million yen is approximately 11,000 U.S. dollars), he began "treating" Shun using ritual chanting and rubbing the boy's stomach repeatedly. He then told the parents that Shun has the "god of death" in his stomach and that the lifesaving insulin he was receiving needed to be stopped. Shortly after Shun returned home from the hospital in February of this year, his parents discontinued the insulin injections. Within a few weeks however, Shun's condition worsened and he was rushed to hospital where his condition was stabilized.
Once again, Shun was released and his parents discontinued the insulin injections as they had before. He eventually died in hospital on April 27. Police then questioned the parents over their son's death and they implicated Tondo. The parents also said that they had sought out Tondo since their son didn't wish to take the insulin injections and they wanted to end his suffering. While Tondo has denied causing Shun's death, police are investigating his finances to see whether he has been involved in other cases.
Belief in exorcism remains strong in parts of Japan and criminal cases involving exorcists charged in the death of people they were meant to help are not uncommon. Exorcisms can be carried out by Buddhist and Shinto priests although there are many "lay exorcists" as well. In 2014, professional exorcist Eiko Noda was charged in the death of 51-year-old Rie Fukuda. Noda had been a practicing exorcist for three decades and was hired by Fukuda's husband to treat his wife for an unidentified illness. Rie Fukuda died after being pinned down and made to swallow a large amount of water. Her husband and two older women were charged as well.
The most gruesome case in recent years came to light in July 1995 when the rotting bodies of four women and two men were found in a house in Fukushima Prefecture. They had all been beaten to death by 55-year-old Sachiko Eto, a self-proclaimed exorcist who had a small following due to her claims of miraculous healing. Eto had killed a romantic rival among her followers under the pretext of casting out an evil spirit and also killed other followers with the help of family members. She was sentenced to death in 2005.
As for the parents of Shun Imai, they are voluntarily cooperating with police in the investigation of his death. It remains unclear whether they will be charged as well.
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