Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
TOKYO - Japan's highest court said on Tuesday it had rejected an appeal by the wife of a doomsday cult leader charged with masterminding the fatal 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway, upholding her six-year term for another crime.
An official said the Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by Tomoko Matsumoto, 42, convicted of conspiring with her husband Shoko Asahara and other Aum Supreme Truth members to kill a fellow member who tried to leave the cult.
Officials declined to comment further on the ruling, which upheld a jail sentence handed down by the Tokyo High Court in 1999.
Cult members have testified that 29-year-old Kotaro Ochida was strangled on Asahara's orders in the presence of Matsumoto and other cult members on February 1, 1994, at Aum's headquarters near Mount Fuji.
Matsumoto admitted to being present at the murder but denied conspiring with other cult members to kill Ochida.
Matsumoto said she was in the room when the strangling took place and felt "unbearable shame," but could not resist because she was suffering from a breakdown in her relationship with Asahara due to his sexual liaisons with other female cult members and physical abuse.
During her first trial, defence lawyers portrayed Matsumoto as a gullible teenager who fell in love with the older Asahara out of pity due to his poor eyesight. They married in January 1978, when she was only 18.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is facing a total of 17 charges for masterminding the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack that killed 12 people and made 6,000 ill.
His Aum cult preached that the world was coming to an end and that members needed to prepare for the approaching Armageddon.
TOKYO - The number of survivors of the 1995 AUM Shinrikyo cult gas attack on the Tokyo subway who show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has increased since 1998, according to a National Police Agency (NPA) survey released Monday.
In the poll of 837 people conducted in March 2000, the NPA posed nine questions related to PTSD and the deadly attack. More respondents answered positively to six of the nine than in the previous survey in May 1998, the NPA said.
There were 388 victims who said they are obsessed by fear of a similar incident, up 92, while 321, up 106, said it was painful to hear or see anything reminding them of the March 20, 1995 incident.
In the random attack, AUM cultists released sarin gas in five subway trains, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000 people.
In the latest survey, 364 reported having flashbacks. The NPA said the figure was down by 48, but still accounted for 43.4% of the respondents.
The poll results were announced following concerns about psychological care for children involved in a school massacre in Osaka Prefecture on June 8.
In the attack at Ikeda Elementary School, eight children were stabbed to death by a knife-wielding man. The number of dead was the largest for a single crime since the subway attack, the NPA said earlier.
TOKYO - The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday rejected a request by the AUM Shinrikyo cult to void a decision by the Public Security Examination Commission to place the sect under surveillance by security authorities.
The ruling marks the first legal decision involving a December 1999 law that allows the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency to monitor any organization that has committed ''indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years,'' and lets police inspect facilities of such groups without a warrant.
AUM filed the suit in February 2000, claiming there was no realistic danger of it committing indiscriminate mass murder and that the surveillance was unconstitutional. The sect plans to appeal the ruling, according to AUM sources.
Police say AUM was responsible for the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which claimed the lives of 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
In handing down the ruling, presiding judge Masayuki Fujiyama said, ''It is rational to decide to disclose the situation of activities by an organization that carried out indiscriminate mass murder.''
In rejecting AUM's request, Fujiyama said, ''If (a decision is) implemented only when there is real danger that preparations (for indiscriminate mass murder) are to restart, it does not run counter to constitutional guarantees such as freedom of religion.''
Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said the ruling is appropriate, but ample consideration must be given to assessing the threat of danger.
''As the Justice Ministry, we would like to continue to make full efforts to resolve the anxiety of citizens about the AUM Shinrikyo cult,'' Moriyama said.
Fujiyama also said the influence of AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 46, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is ''extremely heavy and deep'' when considering ''the gravity of the extraordinary crime AUM committed and the fact that preparations were conducted secretly.''
''It could never be thought that (the cult) would disappear overnight or that it would considerably weaken,'' Fujiyama said in concluding that the decision to place AUM under surveillance was appropriate.
''The cult did not make strong efforts to truly depart from the influence of Matsumoto and there was a possibility that (it) would begin preparations for indiscriminate mass murder by channeling funds for compensating victims into rearming itself depending on the intentions of Matsumoto,'' he added.
But Fujiyama said there were doubts about the commission's argument that Matsumoto is still AUM's head and that he continues to hold dangerous doctrines.
In January last year, the commission decided to allow security authorities to put AUM under surveillance for up to three years.
TOKYO - Prosecutors said Tuesday they have appealed to the Tokyo High Court the life sentence given to Noboru Nakamura, a former member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, demanding he be punished with the death penalty for his role in a series of crimes.
On May 30, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Nakamura, 34, to life imprisonment for his involvement in four incidents, including the 1994 sarin gas attack that killed seven people in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
The prosecutors have demanded the death penalty, saying it is impossible for Nakamura to be rehabilitated.
According to the district court ruling, Nakamura conspired with Shoko Asahara, 46, the AUM founder whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and served as a lookout in the gas attack June 27, 1994, while other AUM members released the gas.
Nakamura was also involved in abducting and killing an AUM follower's 68-year-old relative in 1995 and conspired to kill a 27-year-old AUM member in 1994. He took part in the construction of a sarin production plant as well, the ruling said.
TOKYO - The AUM Shinrikyo cult on Wednesday opened to the public three of its facilities, including a training center in Tokyo's Suginami Ward.
The cult said it opened the facilities to provide information on their activities as well as facilities in the hope of reducing anxiety lingering among locals and society.
AUM spokesman Hiroshi Araki emphasized the cult's intention to make the cult ''open,'' saying, ''We hope to make public other facilities in Osaka Prefecture's Suita and in the town of Sanwa in Ibaraki Prefecture within this month.''
However, public security authorities are on guard against the cult, citing the fact that some members continue to display photos of AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 46, in their rooms.
Other than the training center and another facility in Suginami Ward, the cult said it opened another facility in Tokyo's Adachi Ward. A total of 54 followers live in the three facilities.
One of the Suginami facilities was scheduled to open at 9 a.m. However, the opening was delayed by about 30 minutes because dozens of ward office employees and local residents committed to the eviction of the cult members gathered at the facility and called for the cult's early pullout.
Last month, the cult opened to the public its facilities located in apartment buildings in Minami-Karasuyama in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, which are believed to be the cult's de facto headquarters, to local residents and the media.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is being tried on a number of charges, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
AUM now calls itself Aleph.
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