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Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"AUM ex-spokesman Joyu leaves Yokohama, moves to Tokyo"

(Kyodo News Service, September 20, 2000)

TOKYO, September 20 (Kyodo) - Top AUM Shinrikyo member Fumihiro Joyu, the religious cult's former spokesman, left the group's Yokohama branch Wednesday and moved to a facility in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, police said.
Police suspect AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, may have the Adachi facility, a three-story building, serve as the cult's de facto headquarters.
Joyu, 37, released a statement telling his Yokohama neighbors, ''It does not mean I have found a place where I can live peacefully. But I have found a place to move to for the time being.''
He also apologized for the inconvenience he caused his neighbors as a result of his stay in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.
Joyu has lived at the Yokohama branch since he was released last December from Hiroshima Prison, where he was jailed for three years for perjury and the falsification of documents related to AUM's purchase of land in Kumamoto Prefecture.
About 10 AUM members live in the Adachi facility, and some 40 others frequent the building, according to the Metropolitan Police Department's Public Security Bureau.
The Yokohama District Court on September 6 ordered the cult to vacate the Yokohama branch, which is located in an apartment building, in line with the demands of the building's residents.
Joyu was well known to the Japanese public through frequent exposure to the media as AUM's spokesman until his arrest in October 1995.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is at the Tokyo Detention House and is being tried on 17 criminal cases including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, in which 12 people were killed and thousands were injured.

"Ex-AUM member wins lawsuit against Asahi newspaper"

(Kyodo News Service, September 18, 2000)

TOKYO, September 18 (Kyodo) - The Tokyo District Court on Monday ordered the Asahi Shimbun newspaper to pay 300,000 yen in damages to a man who was erroneously identified as an active member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult.
Presiding Judge Sho Kamisaka said in the ruling that the man once belonged to the doomsday cult but was no longer a member at the time of a Chiba District Court ruling in 1996 which found him guilty of possessing heroin and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
In its September 18, 1996 morning edition for Chiba Prefecture, the Asahi Shimbun ran the story with a headline, ''AUM follower sentenced to 10 years in prison.''
Kamisaka said the Asahi simply adopted comments by Chiba prosecutors at the time of his indictment and showed no sign of having checked them.
The Asahi said it will study the Tokyo court ruling.

"Two Dozen Treated After Japan Odor"

(Associated Press, September 14, 2000)

TOKYO (AP) - A foul odor spread across a building housing bars and restaurants in northern Japan early Thursday, sending 28 people to hospitals.
The incident occurred in a nine-story building in Sapporo, a city on the northern island of Hokkaido, the local fire department said.
The six men and 22 women who were hospitalized suffered eye pain and coughing, Sapporo Fire Department spokesman Yoshitaka Suzuki. Their injuries were not serious.
Police and fire department officials later found brown liquid residue on the building's fifth floor that emitted a bad smell. Police were investigating the residue, Suzuki said, and had ruled out a gas leak as the cause.
Japan has been particularly nervous about such incidents since 1995, when members of the Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday cult released nerve gas on the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people and sickening thousands.

"Hate Aum's teachings, not its followers"

("Asahi Shimbun" (Editorial), September 12, 2000)

In his article in Asahi Shimbun's ``Rondan'' opinion column over the weekend, former Lower House member Hiroshi Miyazawa began his argument by saying: ``As a person who has long been involved with national and local administration and legislative work in the Diet, there is something I cannot understand.''
In his political career, Miyazawa also served as justice minister and governor of Hiroshima Prefecture. In his article, he referred to the fact that local governments across the country have been turning away the children whose parents are affiliated with the Aum Shinrikyo cult, refusing to let them enroll at local schools or even move into the area.
The Education Ministry and the Home Affairs Ministry, Miyazawa wrote, seem to be turning a blind eye to this widespread practice. But isn't this discriminatory measure highly questionable?
That municipalities are having a hard time dealing with such children deserves sympathy, the former Diet member went on to say. But turning them away constitutes a violation of the basic human rights of these children and a clear infringement of the Constitution.
It was not the first time that such opinions had been presented. But many local government chiefs rejected them, even while acknowledging their correctness. ``Intellectually, we know we should let the children in, but we can't do so when we consider the feelings some parents hold against them,'' some explained. ``In this case, the gulf is too wide between ethics and reality,'' others argued.
As justice minister, Miyazawa decided that since Aum Shinrikyo was still considered to be a dangerous group despite the arrest of its top leaders, there was no choice but to institute procedures for invoking the Subversive Activities Prevention Law.
In his ``Rondan'' article, he wrote he had ``some'' knowledge of the realities of the cult. Having served as governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, he must be familiar with the circumstances of cities, towns and villages.This ``politically correct'' argument, coming from a person of Miyazawa's background, naturally is quite convincing.
In Saitama Prefecture, for example, all 49 towns and villages and 39 of its 43 cities maintain a policy of turning away Aum followers and their families when they try to move in. Such policies proliferated after the city of Kawaguchi refused to let them move in in the summer of 1999.
In the meantime, the Saitama cities of Niiza and Tokorozawa recently dropped their anti-Aum policies. Niiza decided to turn away Aum followers and their families only when they seek to relocate en masse. ``It is the teachings of Aum Shinrikyo, not its individual followers, that are to be hated,'' said a spokesman for Niiza city hall.
Miyazawa wrote: ``In a law-abiding country, no one can say the widespread public sentiment against Aum Shinrikyo allows municipalities to treat its followers differently from ordinary citizens under national laws.''
This seems to offer local government chiefs something to consider when they find themselves wondering how to handle Aum followers wishing to move into their area.

"AUM bigwigs pay respects to cult victims"

("Mainichi Shimbun," September 12, 2000)

Two executives of AUM Shinrikyo have paid their respects to the souls of an anti-AUM lawyer and his family, who they killed in 1989, by visiting sites where cult members had dumped their remains. Hiroshi Araki, the doomsday cult's public relations chief, and his deputy, Seiwa Ito, visited Uozu, Toyama Prefecture; neighboring Nadachi in Niigata Prefecture and Omachi, Nagano Prefecture on Sunday. They laid flowers at the memorials of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their 14-month-old son Tatsuhiko.
They first visited the mountainous area in Uozu where members of the cult, which now calls itself Aleph, discarded Satoko's body.
They placed a card written by Araki that read, "We are very sorry Satoko. We will live the rest of our lives with the fact that we have committed a crime that can never been atoned for. We did not have the guts to face to the fact of life at the time (of the killing)."
Then the pair drove to the site of Sakamoto's shallow grave in Nadachi's Mount Okenashi. Araki and Ito laid a bouquet of flowers and prayed at a memorial dedicated to Sakamoto.
Araki said he was there to pray for the souls of the Sakamotos as a representative of the cult.
"When we look back at what we've done in the past, we have no choice but to accept whatever criticism comes. However, we decided that the first thing we have to do is to apologize for the deaths," Araki said.
"We truly regret what we have done in the past, and promise that we'll never repeat our past mistakes."
The AUM pair also went to the place where Tatsuhiko's body was buried, and prayed there for nearly 10 minutes.
However, Sakamoto's colleagues questioned the true intention of the pair's actions.
"This performance is nothing but a public relations stunt," a colleague, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Uozu locals erected barricades to block roads to Satoko's memorial in protest at the cult's gesture of reconciliation, forcing Araki and Ito to walk some 12 kilometers to and from the location.
AUM members stormed the Sakamotos' apartment in November 1989, and killed them by giving lethal injections. The lawyer was helping families of AUM members to pull their loved ones out of the group, and was one of the most vocal critics of the doomsday cult.
Police, however, failed to connect the disappearance of the Sakamotos with AUM Shinrikyo until 1995.
Their bodies were found in September 1995 - some six months after the cult carried out the fatal gas attack on the Tokyo subway system - based on confessions of AUM members.
Three of the family's killers, Kazuaki Okazaki, Satoru Hashimoto and Kiyohide Hayakawa have been sentenced to death for the murders.
Two more AUM members, including Tomomitsu Niimi, have been charged over the killings.

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Revised last: 20-09-2000