Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
TOKYO, June 24 (Kyodo) - A personal computer (PC) sales outlet in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward run by two human rights activists and staffed by eight followers of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult opened for business Saturday, one week after the scheduled opening.
The shop, managed by Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, both supporters of the cult, was initially scheduled to start business on June 17, but a request from the building's landlord and real estate company to cancel the firm's tenancy contract delayed the opening.
The landlord and real estate agency had demanded the shop cancel the contract as they had not been informed in advance that AUM followers would be working at the outlet. Local residents have also joined the talks between the shop and proprietors.
The shop finally received the green light for its opening after promising not to cause any trouble, according to the landlord.
The shop occupies a room on the fifth floor of a building in Tokyo's Akihabara district, which features the nation's largest cluster of electric retailers.
The shop, which will also handle mail-order PC sales, is not connected with any activities of AUM and does not provide financial support to the group, sources close to the shop said.
The eight employees might donate their salaries to compensate victims of AUM-related crimes, but such an act is based on individual will, the sources said.
Lawyer Saburo Abe, who serves as the bankruptcy administrator for the cult, initially approved the AUM selling PCs as a way to raise compensation money for victims of the cult's crime.
But he has since retracted the idea following strong opposition from victims, saying such activity would lead to keeping the cult alive.
All four shops selling PCs run by companies affiliated with AUM were closed in late January. It was believed that the shops generated 6 billion yen in sales in 1998.
Kenji Utsunomiya, lawyer for the victims, said he cannot tell AUM followers not to work since they have their rights to live. He pointed out the shop that opened Saturday is different from closed PC shops as it is run by persons not connected with the cult.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara and a number of other cultists have been on trial or convicted of committing a number of crimes including the 1995 fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and left thousands sick.
An Aum Shinrikyo doctor testified in court Friday that he believes cult leader Shoko Asahara meant for him to use sarin when he ordered him to attack a Yokohama lawyer in 1994.
Appearing before the Tokyo District Court, Tomomasa Nakagawa, who is accused of helping the cult produce the nerve agent, said that Asahara told him and four other followers that they should use "wizard" on the lawyer, TaroTakimoto.
Nakagawa said that he believes Asahara was aware that the term "wizard" was a term adopted by the cult for sarin. The word was commonly used by cult members involved in the production of sarin, and Asahara understood the meaning of similar cult terminology when it was used in front of him.
Asahara allegedly ordered the five followers to kill the anti-Aum lawyer by releasing liquid sarin onto his car in May 1994 in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. The attorney sustained minor injuries.
During Friday's trial hearing, Nakagawa said he believed the sarin produced at the time was defective and would not kill the lawyer.
TOKYO, June 23 (Kyodo) - State-funded, court-appointed lawyers acted for defendants in a record 72.6% of criminal cases in which rulings were made in Japan's district and summary courts in 1998, according to an advisory body to the prime minister on Friday.
The government paid a total of about 4.65 billion yen in legal fees to lawyers that year under a system to assist defendants who cannot or do not hire counsel, according to a Judicial Reform Council discussion document.
Officials from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations attributed the increase to the sluggish economy while Supreme Court officials cited what they said was a rise in the quality of lawyers who participate in the system.
Of 68,953 criminal defendants who received rulings in 1998, 50,066 were defended by court-appointed lawyers, according to the document, compiled by the council's secretariat from data from the Supreme Court and other entities.
The minimum legal fee for a court-appointed lawyer in a criminal case was 83,100 yen in 1998.
The percentage of criminal cases defended by court-appointed lawyers was around 50% in the 1960s and 1970s.
But the figure has since been on a gradual increase, except for during the ''bubble economy'' boom between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The percentage started rising again in 1992.
The state's bill for legal fees for court-appointed lawyers has been on a virtually constant rise, topping 2 billion yen in 1981, 3 billion yen in 1993, and 4 billion yen in 1997.
A court appoints lawyers on the basis of recommendations by local bar associations. The lawyers cannot resign unless dismissed by the court.
The council has been discussing whether to beef up the state-funded defense system as part of its brief to look into judicial reforms.
However, the system has come in for some criticism, especially after the government unveiled in February that the state had paid some 440 million yen in legal fees for members of AUM Shinrikyo between August 1995 and February this year.
A number of mobsters have also been assisted by the system, according to judicial sources.
The Tokyo District Court has appointed a total of 135 lawyers for 67 AUM defendants -- including AUM founder Shoko Asahara.
The court appointed state-funded counsel for Asahara, 45, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, after he dismissed his own counsel without naming a replacement.
A number of members of AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, are being tried for a series of crimes including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Japan is looking into the risk of an extremist attack involving biological weapons, including a possible assault against the Group of Eight (G8) summit on the southern island of Okinawa in July, an official said on Friday.
A Health Ministry official said a team of ministry researchers had drawn up case studies with various scenarios for possible biological attacks, but added that this was only one part of a larger study about the spread of disease.
``The Okinawa summit could be one of those case studies,'' he said, referring to the meeting of the leaders of the G8 rich countries and Russia from July 21 to 23. ``We have not drawn up a plan for the summit specifically.''
The Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun said on Friday that the ministry had compiled a draft action plan in the event of a biological attack at the summit that included where to treat victims and how they would be transported.
The official declined to confirm the report but said it was standard practice around the world to consider various hazards before major international events.
``I believe similar case studies were carried out before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta,'' he saidd.
Japan, long known for its low crime rate, was forced to confront the issue of extremism following a 1995 gas attack by the doomsday cult Aum Shinri Kyo, which placed lethal sarin gas on the Tokyo subway. That killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult had to arm itself to prepare for various calamities.
The Group of Seven rich countries includes the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Canada.
The scheduled opening Saturday of a personal computer sales outlet in Tokyo' sChiyoda Ward, to be staffed by followers of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, has been postponed due to a request from the landlords, sources close to the store said.
The outlet, run by human rights activists Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, hired Aum Shinrikyo followers as part of a program to support Aum members.
According to the sources, preparations for the launch of the outlet, located in Akihabara, have been completed, but the landlords requested that it be postponed because they feared it might cause trouble.
The store is expected to open today at the earliest, after the two activists iron out details with the landlords, the sources said.
Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and other members of the cult are on trial or have been convicted in a series of crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured thousands. Aum now calls itself Aleph.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal Friday with the Tokyo High Court to change the life prison term handed to senior Aum Shinrikyo figure Yoshihiro Inoue to capital punishment.
The Tokyo District Court on June 6 sentenced Inoue to life for his role in 10 crimes, including the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Prosecutors, who had demanded the death penalty, said they were not satisfied with the sentence. The lower court rejected their argument that Inoue played a key role in the nerve gas attack. The district court held that Inoue's role in the attack involved only logistic support and coordination. It also took into account the fact that Inoue had shown regret for his conduct during his trial.
TOKYO, June 17 (Kyodo) - The scheduled opening Saturday of a personal computer (PC) sales outlet in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, to be staffed by followers of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult, was postponed due to a request made by the landlords, sources close to the outlet said.
The outlet, run by human rights activists Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, hired AUM Shinrikyo followers as part of a program in support of AUM members.
According to the sources, preparations for the launch of the outlet, located in Akihabara, had been completed, but the landlords requested it be deferred because they feared it may cause trouble.
The store is expected to open Sunday at the earliest, after the two activists iron out details with the landlords, the sources said.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and other members of the cult are on trial or have been convicted in a series of crimes, including the 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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