The mother of the man who fatally shot former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe donated about 100 million yen ($720,000) to the Unification Church, the man's uncle said Friday.
The assailant, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, has told investigators he believes Abe was linked to the church and he resents it because his family's finances were ruined due to the donations made by his mother.
She continued donating smaller amounts even after she became bankrupt in 2002, the 77-year-old uncle said.
"I believe she was a very important follower of the church. She was under mind control," he said.
Yamagami's mother joined the church around 1991 following his father's suicide in 1984, according to the uncle.
The church has claimed it returned 50 million yen to her, while adding there were no records of the amounts of the donations she made to the organization.
The uncle criticized the church's response and accused it of attempting to evade responsibility.
"He was extremely smart just like his father," the uncle said of Yamagami. "He was also hardworking and I only have good memories of him."
Yamagami attempted suicide in 2005 when he was a Maritime Self-Defense Force member as he wanted his brother and sister to benefit from a life insurance payout, according to the uncle.
He said Yamagami's mother is staying at his home and resting due to extreme fatigue, adding he is not sure if she is still in touch with the church and that she is cooperating with the investigation.
The Unification Church, founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon and known for its group weddings, has a controversial reputation in Japan, where it claims to have about 600,000 followers.
A series of complaints were reported in the past, claiming the church forced people to buy expensive pots and seals. It also encourages believers to donate 10 percent of their income, according to the website of its Japan arm.
"(Former Prime Minister) Nobusuke Kishi invited the church (to Japan from South Korea). So I killed (his grandson) Abe," Yamagami has said, according to investigative sources.
Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was shot on July 8 while delivering a speech on a street in the western city of Nara. Yamagami was arrested at the scene where police found a homemade gun.