The death of Higashi Murayama Councilwoman Akiyo Asaki in September 1995 was concluded a suicide by investigating police and by the Tokyo public prosecutor's office. Allegations by her family that Soka Gakkai was behind her death were found libelous and without any supporting evidence in a series of court cases between 1995 and 2002. [See "Lawsuits Relating to Death of City Councilwoman Akiyo Asaki."]
On September 1, 1995, Councilwoman Akiyo Asaki fell from a tall building and died in a hospital from her injuries soon afterwards. She had been due to appear four days later at the District Public Prosecutor's Office on shoplifting charges. Witnesses arriving at the scene said that, before she died, she refused help several times and said she was "all right."
Shortly after her fatal fall, articles based solely on allegations by Mrs. Asaki's husband Daito and daughter Naoko began to appear in the tabloid press accusing Soka Gakkai of responsibility for Mrs. Asaki's death; the alleged motive was that she was a critic of Soka Gakkai. Naoko and Councilman Hozumi Yano, Asakis' associate, also published these accusations in their local newsletter, the Higashi Murayama Shimin Shimbun. In November the Asakis and Councilman Yano filed a lawsuit for a court order to Soka Gakkai to disband. (The Asakis later withdrew this suit.)
These events occurred shortly after the historic victory of the then largest opposition party, the New Frontier Party (NFP), over the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the July 1995 Upper House elections. This made it clear that the LDP's 40-year monopoly of political power in Japan was at an end. The allegations about Mrs. Asaki's death and related press coverage were used to bring considerable public discredit to Soka Gakkai, one of the NFP's main support bases.
ASAKIS SUE POLICE
In December 1995, police investigations found that there was no evidence of criminality and concluded that Mrs. Asaki's death was a suicide. In the following year, the Asakis and Councilman Yano filed a suit against Soka Gakkai, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government [which administered the Tokyo Metropolitan police] and the owner of the clothing store who had caught Mrs. Asaki shoplifting, among others. The suit was dismissed.
In April 1997, the Tokyo public prosecutor's office concluded that the death of Mrs. Asaki could not be considered murder because there was no evidence indicating a crime and "the probability of suicide was too high." All of the Asakis' contentions were denied.
Soka Gakkai, meanwhile, brought and won libel suits against daughter Naoko and her political associate, Councilman Yano, as publishers of the Higashi Murayama Shimin Shimbun newsletter, and two weekly tabloids, the Shukan Gendai and Shukan Shincho. The courts ruled that they had published baseless accusations and ordered all three publications to pay compensation of 2 million yen [approx. US$18,000] each and the Higashi Murayama Shimin Shimbun and Shukan Gendai to each publish an apology.
[Note: May 20, 2004 exchange rate used throughout. Amounts have been rounded for ease of comprehension.]