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Japanese prosecutors said they will seek a two-year sentence for a Misawa Air Base, Japan, elementary school teacher accused of stealing religious items from several shrines in northern Japan.

Christian Gray, 33, appeared in Aomori District Court, 45 miles northwest of Misawa, Friday for the opening of his trial.

Prosecutors told the court Gray is accused of stealing 11 religious items from eight area shrines between June 22, 2001, and Feb. 2, 2003.

Value of the items was placed at 750,000 yen, or $6,225.

Gray admitted to police Feb. 3 that he took two 12-inch-tall ceramic statues of fox deities from a shrine near the air base on Feb. 2.

He was indicted Feb. 21 in connection with those and the other thefts.

Gray, according to prosecutors, told Japanese investigators he has a fascination with Shinto and Buddhist religions, and that he had purchased items for his personal collection.

He told investigators he began acquiring items he saw at shrines after being unable to find similar objects for sale in antique shops.

Gray has been charged with theft and unauthorized entry into buildings.

Neither prosecutors nor Gray’s attorney would provide comment to Stripes on the case.

A teacher of special education at Sollars Elementary School at the air base 375 miles north of Tokyo, Gray remains on leave-without-pay status.

His next court appearance is set for April 25 at 3:30 p.m. in Aomori District Court.

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.


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