Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
TOKYO, May 15 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo religious group gained four new followers in less than two months, bringing its membership up to 1,150, according to a report the group submitted Monday to the Public Security Investigation Agency.
AUM also reported increased revenues over three months.
According to the report, based on group activities as of May 1, the number of followers living at AUM facilities remained at 566, while the number of outside members rose to 584.
AUM spokesman Hiroshi Araki said the group increased its revenues from the previous 38 million yen reported Feb. 1, primarily as a result of a seminar held at its Yokohama branch during the Golden Week holidays earlier this month. The revenues are in the form of deposits and cash, Araki said.
He stopped short, however, of specifying the margin of the increase, saying, ''While we made a detailed report to the agency, we will not make public the amount of increase since we are in the midst of negotiations with a court receiver over compensation (to victims of AUM crimes).''
Under a law enacted last December to crack down on the group, AUM must file a report every three months detailing the number of its followers, their names and addresses, the group's properties and other information.
The previous report was submitted in March based on the group's activities up to Feb. 1. It was revised March 10.
Monday's report said the group owns 17 facilities and plots of land, down from 20 in the previous report.
Information on the cult's activities is required under the law, which mandates surveillance of the group by authorities.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara is on trial in a number of criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
Doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo agreed Thursday to pay 4 billion yen to victims of its crimes, its receiver, Saburo Abe, said.
But only some 863 million yen has been forwarded to victims of the cult's 1995 lethal gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes, well short of the 38.2 billion yen compensation that had been sought.
AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, will deposit about 200 million yen with Abe some time in the next six months, and will pay out about 1 billion yen over the next five years while it's still in receivership.
A timetable for payments of the remaining 30 billion yen will be drawn up four years later, possibly because cult bigwigs balked at the price demanded.
YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Aum Shinrikyo plans to pay some 4.1 billion yen in compensation to victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes committed by the cult, the cult's bankruptcy administrator said Thursday.
Saburo Abe said senior members of the cult, which has changed its name to Aleph, informed him of the plan when he visited Aum's Yokohama branch in the city's Naka Ward. The members included Fumihiro Joyu, the sect's former spokesman.
Abe, a lawyer, said the cult will pay out 1 billion yen of the total in the next five years.
The administrator said Aum has also agreed to his proposal that between 20 percent and 25 percent of the 1 billion yen be paid out within the next six months, saying the cult has its sights on paying 200 million yen in that period.
But the members rejected Abe's proposal that the group change its name from Aleph, which is said to have been chosen by Aum founder Shoko Asahara.
"It is not correct that the group's name be decided in such a way. We have a belief in the name as a religious group," a senior Aleph member was quoted as telling Abe.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for murder and other charges in 17 criminal cases, including the gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and left more than 5,000 sick.
YOKOHAMA, May 11 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult plans to pay some 4.1 billion yen in compensation to victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes committed by AUM, AUM's bankruptcy administrator said Thursday.
Saburo Abe told reporters that senior members of the doomsday cult, which has changed its name to ''Aleph,'' informed him of the plan when he visited AUM's Yokohama branch in Yokohama's Naka Ward. The members included Fumihiro Joyu, AUM's former spokesman.
Abe, a lawyer, said the cult will repay 1 billion yen of the total in the coming five years.
The administrator said AUM has also agreed to his proposal that 20% to 25% of the 1 billion yen be repaid within the next six months, saying the cult has undertaken to repay 200 million yen in that period.
However, the members rejected Abe's proposal that the group change its name from Aleph, which is said to have been chosen by AUM founder Shoko Asahara.
''It is not correct that the group's name was decided by such a process. We have a belief in the name as a religious group,'' a senior Aleph member was quoted as telling Abe.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial on murder and other charges in 17 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,000.
TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) - A Japanese doomsday cult which has admitted its members carried out a 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway said on Thursday it will pay 4.1 billion yen ($37.47 million) compensation to victims of that and other incidents, Kyodo news agency reported.
The Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult will pay 200 million yen within six months, Kyodo said. The subway attack killed 12 people and injured thousands.
It was unclear how the cult, which changed its name in January to Aleph -- the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet -- would finance the payout.
Its computer businesses -- a major source of income -- were hurt recently after it was discovered software they developed was being used by a number of high-profile organisations, including the police, navy and government agencies.
The government ordered its agencies to abandon the software.
Other domestic media reports said a prestigious private university, local governments and Kyodo were among other organisations that bought software from the company.
Leaders of the cult admitted for the first time last December that sect members were responsible for the nerve gas attack.
Cult leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for murder, masterminding the 1995 attack and 16 other charges, including planning another nerve gas attack in 1994 in which seven people were killed and 144 injured.
In the past, Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and that it must arm itself to prepare for various calamities.
Recent arrests of religious cult leaders, prompted by the deaths of several devotees who were refused medical treatment, have underscored the continuing appeal gurus have for many Japanese.
One after another they emerge, snaring followers and swallowing their fortunes, despite the lessons we thought we had learned from the crimes of Aum Shinrikyo.
The book ``Kyoso Taiho'' (Gurus under arrest) by Kazuhiro Yonemoto, published by Takarajima-sha (1,500 yen), reveals how these self-styled gurus persuade people that they are the saviors of Japan, or the Earth, and entrap them into donating millions of yen to their various cults.
It also touches on family conflict over the issue of separating children from their cult environment and bringing them back home.
Detailed investigation by Yonemoto-a free-lance journalist well known for his extensive reports on such cults as Kofuku-no-kagaku and Yamagishikai-demonstrates that financial needs inspired these leaders to act as gurus, and that they regarded their followers as significant sources of income.
Motivated by moneyFor instance, Hogen Fukunaga established his religious group (Ho-no-hana Sampogyo) back in 1980, running it from his four-and-a-half-tatami-room apartment.
He was then 34 and saddled with 500 million yen of debt. Soon he became a household name through the publication of texts (nearly 70 at latest count) penned by ghostwriters.
In 1987 the sect gained offi-cial recognition as a religious corporation. The sect submits new members to a harsh training regimen, part of which requires them to go without sleep for days on end as they roam the streets crying out such messages as: ``Kenko afureta tanoshii mainichi-desu'' (I am living a happy and healthy life) and ``Saiko-desu!'' (Fantastic!).
After the training, they would be taken separately into rooms where Fukunaga's henchmen would coerce them into paying large sums of money. The intimidation was often accompanied by a specific threat, according to the author.
Some were asked to donate 10 million yen within 24 hours to save the soul of an aborted baby. Anyone who hesitated about paying up was subject to such torments as: ``Your family will commit suicide''; ``You will die of cancer''; or ``You'll remain single for the rest of your life.''
According to the book, Fukunaga has reportedly obtained 60 billion yen from more than 10,000 people over the past 13 years, while he has spent enormous amounts enhancing his reputation as a religious leader by ``buying'' audiences with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II.
Life Space, another cult probed by Yonemoto, started out in 1983 as a body offering ``self-enlightenment seminars.'' Over the next 16 years the outfit evolved into a cult until its 61-year-old guru, Koji Takahashi, was arrested late last year in connection with the discovery of a partly mummified body at a hotel in Chiba Prefecture. Takahashi allegedly subjected the man, aged 66, to ``therapy'' and, when his condition worsened, forbade him access to medical treatment.
The author concludes that Takahashi had no intention of becoming ``a guru'' at the outset; then, he was just a rather competent businessman.
Life Space was one of many concerns that entered the seminar business in the 1980s, and Takahashi lured clients from his competitors by charging less, until seminars were hard hit by Japan's economic stagnation in the early 1990s.
To revive his business, Takahashi held ``deluxe seminars,'' in which he strove to make the participants more psychologically dependent on him. Takahashi's followers worked at occupations he chose for them, and married the spouses of his choice.
Yonemoto writes: ``Takahashi often told his staff members: `I have no hankering to be called a guru.' I would not say that was a lie. ... But, as the participants in his self-enlightenment seminars became dependent on him, Takahashi responded by running their lives for them. And when they grew more serious about seeking a source of perfection in their lives, Takahashi responded by behaving more like a guru.''
The author warns that other dangerous groups are still out there-and that, in many cases, their actions are directed at the young. The Kenshokai Buddhist sect, for instance, encourages young people to bring along their friends. Mamoru Taguchi, a senior high school student, told the author he had persuaded more than 100 high school students to join the sect by saying to them: ``If you obey the sect's teachings you will gain unforeseen advantages, like getting yourself a girlfriend and extra money.'' The sect is also known for using violent tactics to bring in recruits.
Adopt misleading namesKenshokai's membership, as outlined in the book, rose from 10,000 in 1980 to 100,000 in 1985, double that in 1990, and to 680,000 by last year. At 550 million yen in 1998, Kenshokai's income was the third largest of all religious organizations, exceeded only by Soka Gakkai's and Meiji Jingu's.
These religious corporations also set their traps at universities, operating under the guise of clubs with such names as Ningen Kagaku Aikokai (Human science lovers' club), Go West and Koten-ni Manabukai (Classical learning club).
A college student, asked why he joined one such group, Jodo-Shinshu Shinrankai (the New Progressive Nature Club), told the author: ``It's no fun attending classes. My classmates just waste their time at video arcades and drinking. I could hardly discuss deeper stuff with them, whereas I found the senior members of the Shinrankai club were serious-minded when it came to discussing issues relating to our lives. Also, they treated me okay.''
The author maintains that people join cults for various motives but he warns that current social systems, including established religions, have become unable to respond to people's search for meaning in their lives and a common bond with their fellow humans. And this, he writes, partly explains why more cults and cultlike groups continue to be born.
SUITA, Osaka - A 28-year-old man was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly hurled a Molotov cocktail at the door of an AUM Shinrikyo facility here, police said.
Ken Konda, from Higashi-Osaka, said he was formerly a member of a right-wing group.
"I have long been angry about AUM Shinrikyo," he was quoted by police as saying.
According to police, Konda allegedly ignited a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the door of a building where the AUM Osaka office is located. No AUM members inside the building were injured in the attack, but a part of the door and a curtain were burned, police said.
Konda was arrested after a passer-by reported the incident to police.
OSAKA -- Police arrested a 28-year-old man Thursday for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail into the entrance of the Osaka branch of the Aum Supreme Truth cult in Suita, Osaka Prefecture.
The man claimed to be a former member of a right-wing organization and was identified as Ken Konda of Higashi Osaka.
Konda was reportedly spotted lighting the gasoline bomb and hurling it toward the front door of the building at about 8:05 a.m. on the same day. After police were notified by the witness, they rushed to the scene of the attempted arson and caught him red-handed, police said.
At the time of the crime, some cult members were inside the building, but no one reportedly was injured in the incident.
MOSCOW, May 2 (Kyodo) - A former officer of the Russian Black Sea fleet has gathered a group of followers in the Crimea to practice a form of religion apparently taken from Japan's AUM Supreme Truth religious cult, the Russian TV network NTV said Tuesday.
The report said the group, led by a Black Sea fleet officer identified phonetically as Valeri Minthev, has about 30 members and gathers in Simferopol, a main city in Crimea peninsula, Ukraine.
The group is known as ''Miracle Garden of Supreme Truth'' and its members, including former AUM followers from Russia and Ukraine, wear orange-color garbs when practicing meditation, NTV said.
A couple who said they were former ''Miracle Garden'' followers told NTV that ''everything started with AUM.''
The couple said ''Miracle Garden'' followers are not allowed to sleep more than five hours a day and they are forced to listen to incantation tapes provided by the cult.
NTV said Ukraine authorities are keeping a close eye on the cult.
TOKYO, May 2 (Kyodo) - A bankruptcy administrator for the AUM Shinrikyo religious group said Tuesday he has told cult members to continue to pay the remaining 4.1 billion yen in compensation to victims of AUM crimes.
Lawyer Saburo Abe told reporters that he reiterated the request to members of the group, which now calls itself Aleph, with the aim to gain their agreement by the end of this month after holding discussions with court officials.
''I asked them to pay the compensation, not according to the regulations established by Aleph on donations and compensation to victims, but by admitting their responsibility to compensate for damage'' resulting from illegal acts, Abe said.
Aleph spokesman Hiroshi Araki said, ''It's a very severe condition, but we are seriously considering it. We are hoping to come up with an internal decision by the middle of this month.''
The lawyer said he also requested that the group change its name from Aleph, which is said to have been chosen by AUM founder Shoko Asahara.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial on murder and other charges in 17 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
In his request, Abe said Aleph should cover AUM's remaining payments, of which 1 billion yen should be paid within five years. He also asked that 20% to 25% of the 1 billion yen be paid within the next six months as a deposit.
Of the remaining money, Abe said he requested the group to pay at least 200 million yen per year to a fund he manages aimed at helping victims of the AUM sarin attacks.
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