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Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"Last plea for doomsday cult guru"

(Reuters, October 30, 2003)

Defense lawyers for a doomsday cult guru charged with masterminding a 1995 lethal gas attack on the Tokyo subway have said he was a "genuine man of religion" who would not have ordered followers to commit murder.
Shoko Asahara, leader of Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), stands accused of ordering sarin nerve gas attacks on rush hour subways that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,000.
The attack by the members of the cult, which taught that the world was coming to an end, shocked a nation accustomed to crime-free streets and shattered its myth of public safety.
The defense team was winding up its argument in the trial, which has already lasted seven-and-a-half years and will not see a verdict until next February.
Ten cult members have been sentenced to hang for their part in the attacks and prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty for Asahara, 48.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, faces 13 charges, including ordering a separate nerve gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and hurt 144.
"This series of crimes could never have been committed under instructions from a genuine man of religion," Japanese media quoted a defense lawyer as telling Tokyo District Court.
"The cases have nothing to do with Matsumoto and were carried out by his disciples."
Defense lawyers are expected to take two days to read out a document of more than 800 pages asserting Asahara's innocence.
The bearded Asahara originally refused to enter a plea but in April 1997 told the court he was not guilty. He has also made several confusing and unintelligible remarks.
He will be given a final chance to make a statement on Friday after his lawyers finish their argument, a court spokesman said.
Shortly after Thursday's session began, Asahara yelled out and raised his right hand. He was then restrained and warned by the judge not to cross his arms and legs, stroke his beard or place his elbow on his lawyer's desk, Kyodo news agency said.
Calling Asahara the "mastermind" of the crimes and Japan's "most heinous criminal," prosecutors demanded the death penalty when they concluded their case in April.
Asahara raises his clenched hand at the Tokyo District Court in this courtroom sketch.
In a rare move to speed up Japan's snail-paced court proceedings, prosecutors earlier dropped four counts against Asahara, who had faced a total of 17 charges.
Thursday's hearing was the 255th in the trial, which began in April, 1996 -- more than a year after the Tokyo subway attack.
The court will hand down its verdict on February 27, 2004.
All but one of the cult members already sentenced to death have appealed and if Asahara does the same, the case will drag on even longer.
Asahara set up the cult in 1987, fusing Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings to attract a 15,000-member following in Japan, including many graduates of some of the nation's elite universities.
Worried that the cult was making a comeback, Japan's parliament passed new laws in 1999 allowing the government to put it under strict surveillance.
As of December, there were still 1,650 Aum followers in Japan as well as some 300 in Russia, according to the Public Security Investigation Agency.
Earlier this year, the agency extended its surveillance of the group for three years after deeming it was still a threat.
The cult has changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- and says it is now a benign religious group.

"Was asylum seeker once a member of Aum cult?"

("Japan Times," October 30, 2003)

A Japanese woman who is believed to have entered North Korea seeking asylum in August has the same name and date of birth as a former member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, it was learned Wednesday.
Members of Aum, which now calls itself Aleph, have yet to confirm whether the woman in North Korea and the former cultist are one and the same.
Pyongyang has told Tokyo that a Japanese woman entered the North in August seeking asylum, the Foreign Ministry revealed Tuesday, confirming a report by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The KCNA report, monitored in Tokyo, identified the woman as Kazumi Kitagawa.
The Aum members said the former cultist joined the group in Osaka in 1995, but officially withdrew from the group in October 2001. The group said she was a lay follower rather than a live-in follower.
"We have not contacted her since her withdrawal and have nothing to do with her attempt for asylum," said an official of the cult.

"Japanese doomsday cult doctor to hang"

(AP, October 29, 2003)

A medical doctor who acted as a senior leader in the doomsday cult that carried out the deadly 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway will be hanged for his role in that crime and several other murders.
Tomomasa Nakagawa, 41, was sentenced to die Wednesday by the Tokyo District Court for helping to make the sarin nerve gas used in the subway attack, which killed 12 people, and another earlier attack that killed seven people.
He was also found guilty of taking part in earlier cult murders.
Nakagawa is the 10th member of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult to be given the death sentence.
Closing arguments were to be made Thursday in the trial of the cult's guru Shoko Asahara, who is also facing a possible death sentence for allegedly masterminding the subway gassing.
Asahara has claimed he is innocent, and his lawyers have argued that Aum disciples acted on their own.
The subway gassing was the worst case of urban terrorism in Japan's history, and deeply shocked the nation.
Raids of cult headquarters and confessions of leading members later revealed the cult had numerous plots to overthrow the government and operated labs to develop chemical and biological weapons.
At its height, the cult claimed 30,000 members, about a third of them in Russia. It still exists under the name Aleph, but its membership has dwindled to about 1,000 or so.

"Japan doomsday cult member sentenced to death"

(Reuters, October 28, 2003)

TOKYO - A former senior member of Japan`s Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday cult has been sentenced to hang for his involvement in murders including the 1995 gas attack on Tokyo`s subway system that killed 12 and left thousands ill.
The Tokyo District Court handed down the death penalty against Tomomasa Nakagawa, 41, a court spokesman said on Wednesday.
Nakagawa stood accused of helping to make the sarin nerve gas used in the cult`s March 1995 subway attack.
Nakagawa, a former doctor, was indicted for conspiring with other Aum members including cult guru Shoko Asahara and killing 24 people in five cases between 1989 and 1995, Kyodo news agency said.
He faced 11 charges.
The sentencing of Nakagawa, the 10th Aum member to get the death penalty, came a day before the start of a two-day final defence plea in Asahara`s trial.
The other nine members have filed appeals. Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty against Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and a ruling is expected on February 27.
The defence had argued that Nakagawa did not know the gas would be used in the attack and had no criminal intent, and was only following orders, Kyodo said. But Nakagawa had pleaded guilty to the 1989 murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, who was helping handle complaints against Aum, and his family.
Nakagawa was also accused of involvement in a 1994 gassing in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto that killed seven, and also of several attempted murders using cyanide fumes, VX gas, sarin and a letter bomb, Kyodo said.
The doomsday cult, which Asahara set up in 1987, at one point attracted a 15,000-member following in Japan.
In the past, it preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for calamities.
Aum has changed its name to Aleph - the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet - and insists it is now a benign religious group. But Japanese authorities have kept up strict surveillance of the cult, saying it still poses a threat to the public.

“Life imprisonment for Aum member upheld”

(“Kyodo News,” October 16, 2003)

TOKYO — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Koichi Kitamura, thereby confirming his sentence of life imprisonment for murder for his role as the driver of a getaway vehicle in the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, informed sources said Wednesday.
The Supreme Court decision, dated Tuesday, upheld the rulings of the Tokyo District and High courts. The high court ruling said Kitamura, 35, played his role as driver coldly and faithfully in an atrocious and inhumane crime.

“Life sentence for sarin attack upheld for Aum member”

(“The Japan Times,” September 26, 2003)

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a senior Aum Shinrikyo member's life sentence for his involvement in the deadly 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Noboru Nakamura, 36. Both they and Nakamura appealed the life sentence handed down by the Tokyo District Court in May 2001.
Presiding Judge Atsushi Semba said, "His guilt for following the cult founder's wishes and readily committing the heinous crime is significant, but we hesitate to give the death sentence because he played a subordinate role."
During the appeals trial, the prosecutors argued that Nakamura should be executed because he committed the crime with a firm intent to kill.
But Nakamura's lawyers, who claimed he had not intended to kill and is now repentant, called for a sentence with a fixed term.
The district court ruled that Nakamura conspired with Aum founder Shoko Asahara to release the nerve gas in Matsumoto in June 1994. The attack killed seven people and injured scores of others.
The lower court said Nakamura built a nerve gas plant in the cult's complex in Yamanashi Prefecture between 1993 and 1994 and produced sarin there.
Separate from the sarin attack, Nakamura was also found guilty of using a rope to strangle Aum follower Toshio Tomita, 27, at the same Aum facility in July 1994.
Nakamura was also found guilty of abducting and confining Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, on Feb. 28, 1995. Kariya died the following day, allegedly from an overdose of an anesthetic that he was given as a truth serum.
Prosecutors have demanded capital punishment for 14 Aum figures at the district court level, and so far nine of them have been sentenced to hang.

“Japanese court upholds death sentence for Aum cult 'combatant'”

(AFP, September 18, 2003)

A Japanese high court upheld a death sentence to a former Aum Supreme Truth sect member and martial arts expert for his part in 10 murders including victims of a 1994 nerve gas attack.
Presiding judge Atsushi Semba turned down the appeal by Satoru Hashimoto, 36, at Tokyo High Court, rejecting the argument that his mind had been under control of Aum guru Shoko Asahara.
Hashimoto played a big part in mixing and then releasing the Nazi-invented sarin gas in 1994 outside an apartment block in Matsumoto, central Japan.
The fumes killed seven people and injured more than 100 others.
It was a horrific curtain-raiser to the infamous March 1995 gassing of Tokyo's subway by the same cult, which killed 12 people and injured thousands of other rush-hour passengers.
In 1989, Hashimoto had already joined with fellow cultists in the strangling murders of the lawyer, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, along with his wife and baby son.
They killed the lawyer because he campaigned against the cult by helping defectors.
Hashimoto was chosen for the crimes and as a guard for Asahara because of his karate skills, according to prosecutors. He honed his martial art skills at school and won a karate championship held at the Aum Supreme Truth sect.
Japanese media dubbed him a "combatant" in Aum's commando unit.
In April, prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Asahara, 48, who has been on trial for more than seven years as the mastermind of Aum crimes which resulted in the deaths of 27 people.
Asahara, who led the yoga-practicing cult with a mixture of Indian mysticism and primitive Buddhism -- and with his visions of an apocalyptic war against the establishment -- did not physically take part in the release of sarin gas.
Nine of Asahara's disciples, including Hashimoto, have been sentenced to hang in connection with the gas attacks and the murder of the lawyer's family.
None of the sentences have yet been carried out.

“Arrested Cultists Followers of Aum Doomsday Leader”

(“Mainichi,” September 10, 2003)

Former AUM Shinrikyo members recently arrested for illegally obtaining other people's family registers were part of a splinter group that was set up to follow the teaching of its killer guru, Shoko Asahara, the Mainichi has learned.
Investigators at the Metropolitan Police Department's Public Security Division believe two of the three arrested, including Yukio Ishitani, who was a member of AUM's "Ministry of Intelligence," were acting separately from Aleph, the current incarnation of the doomsday cult.
Ishitani, of Utsunomiya, and one of his accomplices officially left AUM Shinrikyo in June 1995 after the cult carried out the poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
However, recent raids on locations related to the pair, including their Tochigi Prefecture-based gravestone company and their houses, unearthed a photo of Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, as well as numerous videotapes and texts used for training of cultists. Several other employees of the company are also former members of AUM.
Police believe Ishitani set up the company as a front for the splinter group. Investigators said in documents seized in another AUM-related case, they found a note saying that under Asahara's orders, the cult provided 10 million yen to Ishitani in 1995 to organize a new group.
Officials of the Public Security Division said they are monitoring several AUM-related groups in Tokyo, which are acting independently from Aleph. Some of the groups are reportedly following the teachings of Asahara, while others parted ways with Aleph because of disagreements with Aleph leader Fumihiro Joyu.
These splinter groups could intensify their activities before the sentencing of Asahara in February next year, police added.

"Lawyers for two Aum members call for overturn of death penalty"

("Japan Today," July 16, 2003)

Defense lawyers for two former members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, sentenced to death for carrying out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, urged the Tokyo High Court on Monday to overturn the sentences.
"They were incapable of being held liable due to brainwashing by the cult," one of the lawyers for Toru Toyoda, 35, and Kenichi Hirose, 39, said at Monday's opening hearing of their appeals trial.

"Protesters call for Aum members' eviction"

by Eric Johnston ("The Japan Times," July 15, 2003)

Some 400 people took part in a protest rally Monday to have Aum Shinrikyo followers evicted from the cult's headquarters in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.
Participants included municipal and prefectural assembly members who are calling for Aum, which now calls itself Aleph, to vacate two stories of a five-story building near JR Shin-imamiya Station that it took over June 1.
Aum's Osaka operations had previously been split between offices in the city of Suita and Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka. These premises were vacated after local citizens complained about the cult's presence.
"It is important to guard the rights of all people," said Osaka Municipal Assembly member Michihiro Kobayashi, who represents Nishinari. "However, in spite of the fact that members of Aum Shinrikyo have been arrested, the group has not disbanded. For the safety of Nishinari, we must oppose Aum's entry into the ward."
Nearly 60,000 signatures protesting the cult's presence in Nishinari have been gathered since mid-June, according to almost a dozen citizens' groups attending the protest. The groups said they will continue gathering signatures until they present the petition to Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura sometime next month.
Since moving into Nishinari, Aum has faced increasing pressure to leave. About 20 people are believed to be living in the building, but Aum members refused to provide exact figures or comment on the day's demonstration.
Several participants said they were especially worried that the group might try to recruit new members.
"I'm for freedom of religion, but this group is a cult," said Sumiko Morii, a 53-year-old resident who took part in the protest. "We are very worried about our children being approached by members of Aleph and being tricked into joining."

"Prosecutors call for ex-AUM senior member Tsuchiya to hang"

("Mainichi," July 14, 2003)

Former senior AUM Shinrikyo cult member Masami Tsuchiya, who played a vital role in the cult's production of lethal gases, should be hanged for his involvement in seven crimes including mass murder, prosecutors demanded Monday.
During a hearing held at the Tokyo District Court, a prosecutor pointed out that cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, masterminded the seven cases in which Tsuchiya was accused of involvement.
"In order to satisfy Matsumoto's desires, Tsuchiya conspired with other senior cult members to move forward with the cult's policy of justifying murders," a prosecutor said in a closing argument.
"He not only established a method of mass-producing sarin gas but also developed chemical weapons, including poison-gas weapons, while knowing that they would be used for murder," the prosecutor said.
Tsuchiya, 38, has admitted to his role in the cult's production of sarin and VX, another lethal nerve gas, but denied he conspired with Asahara and other cult members.
At the same time, he clarified his loyalty to Asahara and argued that he does not think AUM carried out one of the seven cases - a deadly sarin attack in the Nagano Prefecture city of Matsumoto in 1994 that killed seven local residents.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has charged Tsuchiya with murder, attempted murder and harboring a criminal in the seven cases.
They include the sarin attack in Matsumoto and a similar attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 that left 12 people dead and thousands of others ill.
Tsuchiya headed the cult's so-called "chemical team" that produced sarin and VX gas as well as other chemical weapons.
His trial has dragged on for much longer than that of other senior AUM members involved in the cult's terrorist activities because he twice dismissed his defense teams since the court procedure opened in November 1995.
Tsuchiya also refused to enter a plea on all seven charges filed against him.

"Japan Court to Rule on Doomsday Cult Guru in Feb"

(Reuters, July 4, 2003)

A Japanese court plans to hand down a verdict in the trial of the doomsday cult guru accused of masterminding a deadly gas attack on Tokyo subways next February -- nearly nine years after the event shocked the nation.
Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for Aum Shinri Kyo leader Shoko Asahara over the sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 people and harmed more than 5,000 in 1995. The attack shattered the image of Japan as a crime-free society.
"We've told both sides that if the trial proceeds as scheduled, the ruling would be delivered on February 27," an official at the Tokyo District Court said on Friday.
Asahara, 48, faces 12 other charges, including the masterminding of a nerve gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and hurt 144.
Prosecutors and Asahara's lawyers have said they would accept the date, which will be officially set after the final defense plea in court on October 30 and 31, he said.
Prosecutors demanded in April that Asahara be sentenced to death, saying: "It was indiscriminate terrorism and it is the most atrocious and nasty offence in the history of crimes."
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has pleaded not guilty.
In a rare move to speed up Japan's oft-criticized snail-paced court proceedings, prosecutors had dropped four counts against Asahara. The doomsday cult case has run for more than seven years already -- not unusual for high-profile trials in Japan.
Nine cult members have already been sentenced to death and have all launched appeals, which Asahara would also be entitled to.
The doomsday cult, which Asahara set up in 1987, at one point attracted a 15,000-member following in Japan. In the past, it preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for calamities.
According to the Public Security Investigation Agency, there were still 1,650 Aum followers in Japan and some 300 believers in Russia as of last December.
The cult has changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- and insists it is now a benign religious group.
Earlier this year, the public security agency secured a three-year extension to keep up strict surveillance of the cult, as it was still deemed to pose a threat to the public.

"Takayama city ordered to compensate Aum members"

("Japan Today," July 2, 2003)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that the city of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture pay 200,000 yen in compensation to four Aum Shinrikyo members for illegally rejecting their residency registration applications in February last year.
The top court concluded last week that municipalities are required to accept such applications, saying a resident registry forms the basis of administrative procedures, such as the electoral roll, by maintaining accurate records of residents' data.

"Cult wins residency battle"

("Mainichi," June 26, 2003)

Japan's top court on Thursday disqualified local governments from refusing AUM Shinrikyo members' residency in their areas in a landmark ruling on the issue.
The Supreme Court's decision will force many local governments across Japan to review their stance in dealing with the controversial cult since they can no longer reject residency applications from AUM members.
Residential locations of AUM members has been an ongoing social issue, with the group asking courts to revoke local governments' decisions not to accept their residency applications in 16 areas throughout the country.
The top court specifically ordered Tokyo's Suginami-ku and Naka-ku, Nagoya, to accept applications from AUM members.
"If (AUM members) move into the areas, the local governments concerned cannot refuse their residency notification," a judge presiding over the two cases said.
Officials in both Suginami-ku and Naka-ku had insisted that local governments were authorized to receive or reject residency applications because they have a duty to protect the health and safety of the local residents.
Hiroshi Yamada, ward chief of Suginami, was furious about the top court's decision.
"The court doesn't understand local residents' anxiety (about AUM members' moving in)," Yamada said.
"I want the national government to think about fundamental measures to help solve the issue." Hiroshi Araki, a top spokesman for the cult, kept a low profile.
"The residency problem is related to a series of past crimes (committed by AUM members), for which I now make an apology," said Araki. "We have sent letters to local governments where our members have filed lawsuits over their residency, asking them to reach an out-of-court settlement."
Several local governments such as Tokyo's Setagaya-ku and Adachi-ku have allowed AUM members to move in after courts ordered them to do so.
But Setagaya officials now subsidize local residents who keep an eye on AUM members' activities in their ward.
The issue is complicated because AUM members tabled their residency applications in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, even though they don't actually live there.
The Yashio Municipal Government previously decided to allow cult members to move in and to pay compensation for initially rejecting their applications.
But now the city insists that it doesn't have to pay damages in a lawsuit it filed because some AUM members who had their applications rejected actually reside in other prefectures.

"Aum members held over swindle"

("The Japan Times," June 24, 2003)

Three members of Aum Shinrikyo were arrested Monday on suspicion of swindling goods worth 500,000 yen from a mentally ill man.
Police also searched several locations, including an Aum facility in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.
Those arrested were identified as Akira Hori, 43, head of Aum's Osaka branch; Nobuyuki Handa, 38; and Eiichiro Motomura, 38.
They are suspected of swindling about 400 books on medicine and religion and about 10 computer software applications from the 31-year-old man on Oct. 14.
They allegedly told the man the items should be discarded because they were possessed by the devil. Police say the three took the books and software to a used book seller and sold them for cash the same day.
The man was first approached by Aum members in September 2000 while he was browsing through the religion section of a bookstore in Osaka's Umeda district, according to police. At their invitation, he began to frequent Aum facilities, including a yoga class.
He was quoted as telling police he does not consider himself a follower, and that he began to sense something was wrong with him mentally as he went to Aum-related sites. Aum, whose members were convicted of committing several heinous crimes in the early and mid-1990s, renamed itself Aleph in 2001.

"Death row cult member marries, police suspicious"

("Mainichi Daily," June 7, 2003)

A former AUM Shinrikyo cult senior member Tomomitsu Niimi, who is appealing a death sentence he has been handed for his roles in mass murder cases committed by the cult, has registered his marriage to a cult follower, Tokyo police said.
Investigators suspect Niimi, 39, married the woman in a bid to use her as a messenger between him and the cult, noting that only relatives can visit the defendant once he is put in prison.
Since he is appealing the ruling to a high court, Niimi is still in a detention center.
The cult denied his marriage was aimed at securing communication channels with cult leaders. "The sect can't make a decision on such a personal matter. The woman is not an active member of the cult," Hiroshi Araki, public relations manager of the cult, said. The defense lawyer for Niimi declined to comment on the revelations.
In December last year, Niimi registered his marriage to a follower who was developing computer software at a cult-affiliated company, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Public Security Division.
During a raid on a cult facility in spring last year, the division confiscated documents showing that Niimi frequently communicated with the cult's headquarters over how to run the organization.
One of the documents clearly demonstrated that Niimi was asking cult leaders to introduce to him a woman he could marry. Defense lawyers can legally meet their clients at detention centers.
Under the Prison Law, however, only relatives can meet those who have been placed in prisons after the Supreme Court dismisses their appeals or they give up appealing the sentences on them.
In 2000, AUM Shinrikyo declared that it would break off relations with cult followers who failed to express their regret over involvement in crimes masterminded by cult founder Shoko Asahara.
However, Niimi declared throughout his trial that he still follows Asahara, 48, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
The MPD Public Security Division believes that the cult's declaration is just a lie aimed at making itself look clean of criminal activities.
Niimi has been slapped with a death sentence for his involvement in a series of crimes committed by the cult, including a 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains that left 12 people dead and sickened thousands of others.

"Court upholds death for Japan subway terrorist"

("Mainichi," May 19, 2003)

A top AUM Shinrikyo member who played a leading role in the cult's 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people had his appeal against the death sentence rejected Monday.
"It was an inhumane crime of an unprecedented scale ... the defendant must bear a grave responsibility."
Presiding Judge Kunio Harada said at the Tokyo High Court that upheld the death penalty handed to Masato Yokoyama.
Yokoyama's lawyers argued that capital punishment was too heavy by pointing to the fact that no one died in the carriage where he sprayed the deadly sarin gas.
The defense team also claimed that 48-year-old Yokoyama was under the mind control of AUM guru Shoko Asahara.
However, Harada rejected these arguments.
"Although it turned out that no one died as a result of the defendant's actions, the death sentence is unavoidable," the judge said.
"We cannot conclude that the defendant is not showing remorse, but the level of his apparent remorse shown is not enough to downgrade his punishment."
Yokoyama has remained silent in the dock since the middle of his trial at the Tokyo District Court.
He did not utter a word during Monday's proceeding.
Court documents showed that Yokoyama was one of the AUM members who released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000 people.
He was also found guilty of illegally manufacturing automatic rifles from 1994 to 1995.

"Japanese Police Raid Doomsday Cult Premises"

(Reuters, May 14, 2003)

TOKYO - Japanese police on Wednesday raided buildings occupied by a doomsday cult that government officials have likened to Aum Shinrikyo, the group that carried out a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway eight years ago.
The search was an attempt to gauge the potential threat posed by the white-clad group, Japanese media said, although for now the cult is being investigated only on suspicion of the minor offence of registering vehicles under a false name.
"The search is nationwide, but we cannot link it to any other offences," said a spokesman for Tokyo police.
The cult, which calls itself Pana Wave Laboratory, is reported to have said it expects the world to end later this month and that communists are trying to kill 69-year-old group leader Yuko Chino by using electromagnetic waves.
"We are being attacked by communists," Chino told Japanese television in her first-ever interview, conducted inside the narrow van, strewn with pillows, that has been her home in recent weeks. "We will fight back."
Graying hair falling to her shoulders, Chino alternated comments about how she had used a special moisturizing cream to minimize her wrinkles for the camera with apocalyptic predictions of the end of the world.
"Within a year the Earth will be destroyed and neither Japan nor humankind will exist," she said, when asked about the future of the cult. "I think the question of our group disbanding is not an issue."
Pana Wave's convoy of white vehicles became a fixture on Japanese television in recent weeks as it made its way around the countryside, frequently being physically barred from entering towns and villages by nervous residents.
Cult members surrounded themselves with huge white sheets whenever their convoy came to a halt, saying this would protect them from the electromagnetic waves.
Pana Wave Laboratory's headquarters are in Fukui, 200 miles west of Tokyo.
Chino recently released a statement urging people to protect Tama-chan, a bearded seal that has become a national mascot since appearing in rivers near Tokyo, far from its natural habitat in the icy Bering Sea. Domestic media reports have expressed concern that Pana Wave Laboratory was hoping to capture the animal.
Earlier this month, Japan's national police chief, Hidehiko Sato, referred to the cult's behavior as "grotesque" and reminiscent of the early days of Aum Shinrikyo.
Aum Shinrikyo, which also preached that the world was coming to an end, killed 12 people and injured 5,000, many severely, when members carried out a saran gas attack on the busy Tokyo subway system in 1995.

"AUM senior member apologizes at conclusion of trial"

("Mainichi," May 12, 2003)

The trial of former AUM Shinrikyo senior member Tomomasa Nakagawa concluded Monday after he apologized for his involvement in a series of crimes committed by the cult including the Tokyo subway gassing that killed 12 people.
"I've been disqualified as a human being, as a doctor and as a religionist," Nakagawa, 40, told the Tokyo District Court.
"Mr. (cult founder and former leader Shoko) Asahara murdered a large number of people. I devoted myself to supporting him. I apologize to those affected by the crimes."
The court is set to hand down a ruling on Nakagawa on Oct.29.
Prosecutors are demanding the death penalty for Nakagawa for his involvement in 11 crimes masterminded by Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
The crimes he was accused of having been involved in include a sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 that killed 12 people and sickened thousands of others and the murder of anti-AUM lawyer Tsutumi Sakamoto, his wife and their infant son in 1989.
The defense counsel for Nakagawa asked for leniency during the last hearing Monday on the grounds that he did not play a leading role in the crimes and that he was nearly insane at the time.
The lawyer added that Nakagawa had no choice but to carry out the crimes on the orders of Asahara.
Prosecutors countered that Nakagawa, as a high-ranking member of the cult, played an important role in these crimes.

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