Clergyman withholds plea to sexually abusing girls at Kyoto church

Kyoto, Japan - A clergyman of a Christian church in Kyoto Prefecture declined to plea in a court hearing Tuesday to charges of sexually abusing four girls who were members of his congregation between 2001 and 2004.

Tamotsu Kin, 61, a Japan-born South Korean national who heads the Central Church of Holy God in Yawata City in the prefecture, told in the first hearing on his case at the Kyoto District Court, "At today's stage, I'd have to say there is nothing to state."

The prosecutors allege that Kin sexually abused the four girls on 11 occasions between March 2001 and August 2004 in his office at the church, telling them he was testing their religious devotion and that they would languish perpetually in hell if they acted against his will.

During the investigation, Kin denied the allegations.

The Kyoto District Public Prosecutors Office is still investigating Kin on suspicion of sexually abusing three other girls and additional sexual abuse of two of the four girls in the current case.

The church's website, which seems to have become defunct, used to state that Kin, who was born in Sennan, Osaka Prefecture, founded the Central Church of Holy God in 1987 after he finished studying at a seminary in South Korea.

The church was registered with the Kyoto prefectural government the same year.

Kin was said to be preaching at the church under the name of Tamotsu Nagata.

The police said the church had around 3,000 members but has seen a large number of people leave since allegations surfaced last December that female believers were assaulted in the church.