CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions directed by Massimo Introvigne

"Killer sects: Eternal life and promised land in return of money and soul"

("Pravda", July 08, 2008)

Notorious Russian "healer" Grigori Grabovoi, has been found guilty on 11 counts of fraud. Grabovoi set up a sect known as The Teaching of Grigori Grabovoi. He positioned himself as a healer and promised people to resurrect their deceased loved ones. Russia"s law-enforcement agencies paid attention to Grabovoi in 2004, after he publicly claimed to be able to resurrect the children killed in the Beslan school siege. The "healer" charged about 40,000 rubles (about $1600) for his services per person.
The self-proclaimed "healer" has been sentenced to eleven years in jail.
It is worthy of note that specialists have not found a common definition to the word sect. Some determine it as a religious group, which does not have the recognition of the general public. Others say that a sect is an ideological group of people who follow their charismatic leader. Both of these definitions say that a sect leader has a very strong influence in his supporters. Below you can find the list of the most dangerous sects in the world.
5. Seventh-Day Adventists. The Church of Seventh-Day Adventists appeared in the United States during the middle part of the 19th century and was formally established in 1863. Among its founders was Ellen G. White, whose extensive writings are still held in high regard by the church today.
Much of the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist church corresponds to evangelical teachings such as the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture. Distinctive teachings include the unconscious state of the dead and the doctrine of an investigative judgment. The church is also known for its emphasis on diet and health, for its promotion of religious liberty, and for its culturally conservative principles.
A tragedy happened in the USA in the 1990s, when about a hundred of Adventists were killed. David Koresh, the leader of a Branch Davidian religious sect, which spun off from the Seventh-day Adventist church, prophesied about the coming end of the world for too long. The fake messiah did not want to leave the world alone. About a hundred of his insane supported, including Koresh himself, died in the fire during the siege of their building in Waco.
4. The Manson Family. Charles Manson was a mentally unstable individual, a maniac who considered himself a prophet. He declared war between the black and the white races. He said that he had foreseen that war that would clear the planet. At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, who had spent half his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. In the period before the murders, he was a distant fringe member of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly via a chance association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. After Manson was charged with the crimes, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially; artists including Guns 'N' Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs in the decades since.
Manson's death sentence was automatically reduced to life imprisonment when a decision by the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty. California's eventual reestablishment of capital punishment did not affect Manson, who is an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.
3. Heaven"s Gate. Heaven's Gate was the name of an American UFO religion based in San Diego, California and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The group's end coincided with the appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Applewhite convinced thirty-eight followers to commit suicide, which he claimed would allow their souls to board a spaceship that they believed was hiding behind the comet.
Further, Heaven's Gate believed that the planet Earth was about to be recycled (wiped clean, refurbished and rejuvenated), and that the only chance to survive was to leave it immediately. While the group was formally against suicide, they defined "suicide" in their own context to mean "to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered", and believed that their "human" bodies were only vessels meant to help them on their journey.
2. Aum Shinrikyo. Aum Shinrikyo, now known as Aleph, is a Japanese new religious movement organization. The group was founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. The group gained international notoriety in 1995, when it carried out the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways.
The movement was founded by Shoko Asahara in his one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo's Shibuya ward in 1984, starting off as a Yoga and meditation class known as Aum-no-kai ("Aum club") and steadily grew in the following years. It gained the official status as a religious organization in 1989. It attracted such a considerable number of young graduates from Japan's elite universities that it was dubbed a "religion for the elite".
On December 11, 2002, The Canadian government added Aum to its list of banned terrorist groups. The EU has designated Aum Shinrikyo as a terrorist organization. The United States also maintains Aum on its list of foreign terrorist groups.
1. People"s Temple. It is the most horrendous sect in the world. Peoples Temple was an organization founded in 1955 by Reverend James Warren Jones (Jim Jones) that, by the mid-1970s, possessed over a dozen locations in California. Peoples Temple is best known for the death of over 900 of its members that occurred in Guyana at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (informally called "Jonestown"), a nearby airstrip at Port Kaituma and Georgetown, on November 18, 1978.
The Peoples Temple purported to practice what it called "apostolic socialism." In doing so, the Temple openly preached to established members that "religion is an opiate to the people." Accordingly, "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment - socialism." In that regard, Jones also openly stated that he "took the church and used the church to bring people to atheism." Jones often mixed those concepts, such as preaching that "If you're born in this church, this socialist revolution, you're not born in sin. If you're born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you're born in sin. But if you're born in socialism, you're not born in sin."
On November 17, 1978, the group was visited at Jonestown by Leo Ryan, a United States Congressman from the San Francisco area, who was investigating claims of abuse within the Peoples Temple. During this visit, a number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave with the Congressman, and on the afternoon of November 18, these members accompanied Ryan to the local airstrip at Port Kaituma. There they were intercepted by Temple security guards who opened fire on the group, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists, and one of the Temple defectors. A few seconds of gunfire from the incident were captured on video by Bob Brown, one of the journalists killed in the attack. On the evening of November 18, in Jonestown, Jones ordered his congregation to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid. It was later determined that Jones died from a gunshot, with a contact wound in a location and angle consistent with being self-inflicted. His body was also found to contain high doses of drugs. In all, 918 people died, including over 270 children. This includes four that died at the Temple headquarters in Georgetown that night.

"Report: Daughters of jailed Japanese doomsday cult leader sue over prison care"

(AP, December 29, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - Two daughters of the Japanese doomsday cult founder convicted of plotting a deadly gas attack on Tokyo's subway system have filed a lawsuit saying their father is not receiving proper mental health care in jail, a news report said.
Shoko Asahara's daughters are seeking 5 million yen in damages from the government and the physician supervising the 52-year old former Aum Shinrikyo guru, Kyodo News agency said late Friday.
In the suit filed Friday with the Tokyo District Court, the daughters, whose names were not given, are also asking that Asahara be transferred from the Tokyo Detention Center to a medical facility where he can receive specialized treatment, Kyodo said.
The daughters claim their father's condition appears to be worsening, saying that he repeatedly laughs and talks to himself when they have met him face to face, Kyodo said.
Phones at the Tokyo District Court rang unanswered Saturday.
In 2004, Asahara, born Chizuo Matsumoto, was convicted and sentenced to hang for a 1995 attack on Tokyo's subway system in which his followers released deadly sarin gas during the morning rush hour. The attack killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Asahara was also convicted of plotting more than a dozen other crimes, including a 1994 gas attack in central Japan that killed seven and the kidnapping and murder of an anti-cult lawyer and his family.
Defense lawyers frequently raised the issue of Asahara's mental health during his eight-year trial. The former leader, who once commanded a cult of 40,000 members, often mumbled incoherently during the trial, interrupting sessions with bizarre outbursts in gibberish or in broken English.
His lawyers have said they have never been able to carry out a coherent discussion with their client, and he suffers from pathological mental stress caused by confinement.
In September 2006, Japan's top court rejected appeals arguing Asahara was not competent to face justice, effectively finalizing a lower court's death sentence ruling against him.
Asahara's lawyers could still apply for a retrial or an emergency appeal to stop his execution, but they have done neither to date.
Japanese authorities do not announce death sentence schedules in advance and until earlier this month wouldn't even announce the names of the people they had executed.

"State likely to pay Aum redress"

("Asahi Shimbun," November 27, 2007)

A Liberal Democratic Party team has drafted a bill requiring the government to cover about 2.5 billion yen in unpaid compensation to victims of the now-bankrupt Aum Shinrikyo cult.
According to a summary of the draft bill, public funds will be used to compensate victims who were "fatally and physically harmed" by crimes committed by Aum Shinrikyo, including the March 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 and sickened thousands.
The cult, which now calls itself Aleph and is under heavy government surveillance, will complete bankruptcy procedures by the end of March next year.
Aum went bankrupt in 1996 with aggregate liabilities of about 5.1 billion yen, including 3.8 billion yen in compensation it promised to victims of its crimes and their bereaved families. The cult has paid only about 1.3 billion yen of that amount.
The LDP plans to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session next year.
The LDP team, headed by Lower House member Chuko Hayakawa, is working on relief measures for victims of crime.
Its draft bill says the state should be held responsible for the unpaid compensation because Aum Shinrikyo crimes were intended to "challenge" the country's democracy, but innocent civilians suffered instead of the government.
The draft also says the magnitude of Aum crimes is comparable to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and the London bombings in 2005, in which the governments provided public compensation to the victims.
The panel also acknowledged that Aum no longer has the financial strength to pay compensation.
At least 27 people died during Aum Shinrikyo's series of crimes in the late-1980s and 1990s, including another nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the slayings of the cult's opponents.
Until now, Aum has provided compensation to victims as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
In a meeting last month with victims of the sarin assault on the Tokyo subway system, the cult's court-appointed bankruptcy administrator proposed to end the bankruptcy proceedings by the end of March. The administrator said the current format in which the cult alone pays compensation to victims has already reached its limit.
In response, the LDP project team decided to submit a bill to make the state shoulder the unpaid compensation.
The main opposition party, Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), is working on a similar bill, meaning that bipartisan talks on the legislation will likely move forward.
The LDP team's draft bill is a long-desired step for both Aum Shinrikyo's bankruptcy administrator and victims, who have demanded the state offer compensation for their suffering.
Victims say they have been forced to make "self-reliant efforts" in seeking compensation from Aum Shinrikyo through court battles and other measures.
They also say they have been forced to live with the continued existence of Aum Shinrikyo in order to receive compensation

"LDP eyes 'solatium' for Aum victims"

("Yomiuri Shimbun," November 26, 2007)

Toyko, Japan - A Liberal Democratic Party project team plans to submit a bill to create a new law that would provide financial relief in the form of a 'solatium' for people who are still awaiting full compensation from the Aum Supreme Truth cult, LDP sources said Sunday.
According to a summary of the bill compiled by the LDP project team, headed by House of Representatives member Chuko Hayakawa, the government will pay compensation that should have been paid by Aum as solace for the suffering experienced by the cult's victims. The team's main task has been to formulate basic policy for crime victims, and the LDP plans to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session next year.
Many of those due to receive compensation from Aum have only received 35 percent of the agreed amount. As the Aum Supreme Truth looks set to be declared bankrupt in March next year, however, there is only a slim chance that Aum victims will ever receive the full amount of compensation.
It is rare for the government to extend relief to crime victims in the event that compensation is left unpaid due to bankruptcy.
People injured in certain Aum attacks, and the families of those killed, will be entitled to the solatium payments. Eligible cases include the February 1989 lynching of cult member Shuji Taguchi, who had tried to leave the cult, and the November 1989 murder of all three members of the family of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, who had criticized the cult. The eligible cases also include the sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on June 27, 1994, and the massive sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995. A total of 27 people were killed in Aum-related incidents.
Those who suffered only psychological or property damage will not be eligible for the solatium, according to the sources.
The project team estimates the total amount of solatium payments at about 2.5 billion yen.
The team cited the "peculiarities" of the Aum cases as the reason for offering the special solatium to the Aum victims, the sources explained. The bill is said to be based on the following principles:
The Aum cases were a challenge to democracy, with innocent citizens paying the price instead of the state in the subversive crimes.
The victims and their families, have done their best to cope on their own.
The cases already have prompted the government to introduce a special law abandoning its claims to Aum's assets.
Paperwork concerning the payment of the solatium will be entrusted to the bankruptcy administrator for the cult, according to the sources. Details of how the government will fund the solatium payments have been left for later discussions.
According to lawyers working on aid for Aum victims, the Aum Supreme Truth's aggregate liability is about 5.1 billion yen, including damage compensation due to be paid to victims and claims for refunds of fees by former Aum members.
Among these, compensation due to victims in the Matsumoto and Tokyo sarin attacks and other incidents totals about 3.8 billion yen. Aum has so far paid about 1.3 billion yen, but there is now little prospect of repayment of the remaining sum, with the cult's bankruptcy proceedings due to be completed in March next year.

"Bar federation recommends psychiatric care for Aum founder"

("Asahi Shimbun," November 15, 2007)

Toyko, Japan - The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has complained that Chizuo Matsumoto, the convicted mass murderer who founded the Aum Shinrikyo cult, is not receiving proper medical treatment on death row.
A recommendation for appropriate measures dated Nov. 6 was sent by the JFBA to the Tokyo Detention House, where Matsumoto, 52, is imprisoned.
The federation said outside psychiatrists should be brought in to examine Matsumoto and have him treated with drugs or at a medical prison.
It said Matsumoto was suffering from severe psychiatric problems brought about by his long detention, but there were no signs that he was receiving any treatment for these disorders.
Matsumoto's death sentence was finalized in September 2006. He was found guilty of masterminding a string of crimes, including the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994. The crime spree left 27 people dead and sickened thousands.
Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, was arrested in May 1995.
In September 2005, lawyers in Matsumoto's appeal case before Tokyo High Court asked the JFBA's human rights protection committee to look into the matter. At issue in the trial was whether Matsumoto was mentally competent to be held responsible for the crimes.
The committee conducted an investigation that involved analyzing opinion papers written by doctors who examined Matsumoto.
Lawyers who were handling the investigation also met with Matsumoto in January.
According to those lawyers, Matsumoto's hair was cut short and he looked pale. He repeatedly scratched his chest and head.
Much like he did during his court appearances, Matsumoto said little during the January interview. He did not respond to questions about his health, his family or Aleph, the name now used by the organization that was Aum Shinrikyo.
Lawyers said they could not communicate with Matsumoto, since all he uttered was the occasional "Uuu" or "Hiii." Based on that investigation, the JFBA concluded that Matsumoto was suffering from severe psychiatric problems brought about by his long detention.
However, Matsumoto was examined during the course of his trial and was ruled competent to stand trial.
The JFBA's report said that the constitutional protection of the dignity of individuals applies to everyone, and that a minimum level of care was needed outside of whether Matsumoto was competent or not to stand trial.

"Police arrest 6 more women in sect death"

(AP, October 27, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - Police arrested six more female members of a religious sect in central Japan on Saturday in connection with the slaying of a fellow member who was beaten to death last month, police said.
Sushi restaurant owner Motoko Okuno, 63, died last month after a mass beating at the Kigenkai sect's headquarters in Komoro city, Nagano prefecture (state), local police official Toshio Gomyo said.
The six women arrested Saturday join 23 people already in custody in connection with the killing, including 21 other female Kigenkai members and Okuno's husband and daughter, who were also members of the sect, he said.
Earlier news reports suggested Okuno was killed as punishment for failing to carry out religious rites.
Kigenkai, founded in 1970, is based on Japan's indigenous Shinto religion and sells purified water the sect claims can cure diseases. It has about 400 members in branches across Japan, according to Japanese media.
Religious cults in Japan, a largely nonreligious society, have been linked to crimes and attacks.
A doomsday sect released nerve gas in Tokyo's subway system a decade ago, killing 12 people. That sect remains under surveillance by authorities.

"Cult member gets death penalty"

(AFP, October 26, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - Japan's top court upheld a death sentence on Friday handed to a member of a doomsday cult for killing seven people in 1994 by releasing Nazi-invented nerve gas, officials said.
The Supreme Court turned down an appeal by Satoru Hashimoto, 40, a senior member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, which is best known for its deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
The court ruled that Hashimoto and other members of the cult sprayed sarin gas in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in June 1994, killing seven residents under the instruction of Aum guru Shoko Asahara.
Asahara, a charismatic former acupuncturist who preached of a coming apocalypse, is himself on death row.
"It was an organised, cruel crime," presiding judge Osamu Tsuno said as he confirmed Hashimoto's sentence.
"He bears grave criminal responsibility," he said, as quoted by Jiji Press.
The court also ruled that Hashimoto killed an anti-sect lawyer and his wife and their baby in 1989.
Hashimoto will now be transferred to death row to await hanging, except in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court accepts a special appeal arguing that his sentence is unconstitutional.
The 1994 incident was largely seen as a rehearsal for the attack a year later on Tokyo subway trains that left another 12 people dead and thousands injured.

"Ex-leader of Japan doomsday cult says sorry"

(AFP, September 20, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - A former leader of the Japanese doomsday cult behind deadly nerve-gas attacks has met a high-profile survivor for the first time to offer a direct apology, his group said Thursday.
Fumihiro Joyu, former spokesman of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, met Yoshiyuki Kono, 57, on Wednesday and apologised for the 1994 attack in the central city of Matsumoto.
But Japanese security authorities, which closely monitor the cult and Joyu's splinter group, criticised the meeting as a mere publicity stunt.
The Aum sect killed seven people in Matsumoto by unleashing Nazi-invented sarin nerve gas, in an apparent rehearsal for a 1995 attack on Tokyo subway trains that left another 12 people dead and thousands injured.
Kono, whose wife is still in a coma, was falsely accused by police and media of being responsible for the gas leak because he was close to the scene at the time.
"Three executive members including Joyu met Mr. Kono and made a special apology to him because he was a victim of the false reports and was wrongly accused," Joyu's spokesman Akitoshi Hirosue said.
Joyu, 44, acknowledged that he lied to the media as the then spokesman for the cult, Hirosue said. Joyu has also previously sent Kono written apologies but this was the first face-to-face meeting.
Seen as a moderate in the Aum cult, Joyu in March defected with some 65 followers to break away from the sect's apocalyptic-minded founder Shoko Asahara.
The bearded, half-blind Asahara is on death row for the nerve gas attacks.
Joyu's splinter group, named Hikari no Wa ("Circle of Brilliance") has about 200 members including new recruits.
But Japanese authorities allege that Joyu was merely posing and questioned his meeting with Kono.
"It may be a performance to show that he is not tainted by the Matsumoto case and that he has parted" from the main cult, Kyodo News quoted an official of Japan's Public Security Intelligence Agency as saying.
The Aum cult has also apologised for the attacks. It has renamed itself Aleph - after the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet - and deposed Asahara, but authorities say hardcore followers still revere him.

"Asahara daughters, lawyers lose damages suit against state, doctor"

("Kyodo," July 27, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - The Tokyo District Court on Friday rejected a 50 million yen damages suit filed by two of AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara's daughters and his lawyers seeking compensation for mental pains they suffered after the Tokyo High Court upheld the death sentence on the cult leader without holding a single hearing.
Presiding Judge Nobuhiro Katada rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the high court had put priority on getting Asahara's trial finished and had decided from the very beginning he was competent to stand trial.
"There is no evidence the high court conducted the trial with an unlawful or unfair intention," the judge said in handing down the ruling.
The defendants in the suit were the government and a psychiatrist who conducted psychiatric checkups on Asahara, 52.
The three-judge panel at the district court rejected demands against the psychiatrist, saying the rights and wrongs of a decision by a court-entrusted medical expert cannot be the subject of a civil case.
The suit was filed by the second- and third-eldest daughters of Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and his lawyers.
The plaintiffs had argued that the high court put priority to an early conclusion of Asahara's trial in an unlawful management of the case, insisting that the defense counsel could not communicate with Asahara, who they said was in mental disorder.
They also maintained that the psychiatrist accommodated the high court's wish and made a wrong conclusion that Asahara was fit to stand trial.
In February 2004, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Asahara to death, finding him guilty on all 13 charges, including murder and attempted murder, for masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The defense immediately filed an appeal with the Tokyo High Court.
But the high court upheld the death sentence in March 2006 without holding a hearing, after Asahara's defense counsel failed to submit a written document stating the reason for the appeal by the high-court-set deadline.
In September 2006, the Supreme Court rejected a special appeal filed by the defense counsel, finalizing the death sentence.

"Japan's top court upholds death penalty for subway gas attacker"

(AFP, July 20, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - Japan's top court on Friday upheld a death sentence for one of five members of a doomsday cult who released deadly nerve gas on Tokyo's underground rail network in 1995.
Masato Yokoyama, 43, became the third member of the Aum Supreme Truth sect to lose his last appeal.
The Supreme Court rejected his counsel's demand that the sentence be reduced because no one died on the particular train where Yokoyama released Nazi-invented sarin gas.
Twelve people were killed and thousands more were injured in the attacks.
The cult released the gas on rush-hour trains under orders of their apocalyptic-minded guru Shoko Asahara, who apparently believed he would preempt a raid by authorities on the sect's compound, according to court rulings.
Death sentences have also been finalised for Asahara and Kazuaki Okazaki, who was convicted of killing an anti-cult lawyer, his wife and baby son in 1989.

"Tokyo High Court upholds former cult doctor's death sentence in 1995 subway gassing"

by Kozo Mizoguchi (AP, July 13, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - A Japanese high court upheld the death sentence Friday for a former medical doctor who was a senior leader of a cult that carried out a fatal nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, a court official said.
The Tokyo High Court backed a lower court's October 2003 conviction of Tomomasa Nakagawa for helping to make the deadly sarin nerve gas used in the subway attack that killed 12 people, and in an earlier attack that killed seven people, said a court spokeswoman who spoke on condition of anonymity citing court protocol.
Nakagawa was also found guilty of participating in other cult murders.
The spokeswoman said she had no other details from the ruling.
More than a dozen death sentences have been handed out to members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, but none of them have been executed. Former Aum guru Shoko Asahara is on death row for 27 killings, including 12 in the subway attack.
Before the subway attack, the cult amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
In 2000, Aum renamed itself Aleph but remains under close police surveillance.
Asahara's former top lieutenant, Fumihiro Joyu, left the group and established a 160-member sect of his own, called "Ring of Light," in May. He has denied the group follows Asahara's teachings, but critics say the move is a coverup.

"Death sentence upheld for Japanese cultist"

(AFP, May 31, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - A Japanese court on Thursday upheld a death sentence against a prominent member of a doomsday cult who produced nerve gas for a deadly attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Seiichi Endo, 46, was an elite university graduate in science who later joined the Aum Supreme Truth sect.
"The accused took the initiative in the production of sarin gas, fully acknowledging that it is lethal," Tokyo High Court judge Osamu Ikeda said, upholding a lower court verdict.
Endo was "health and welfare minister" in the doomsday cult's self-styled government and played a key role in its study of sarin, VX-gas, anthrax and other germs and poisons.
Endo was a close aide to Aum guru Shoko Asahara, a charismatic former acupuncturist who preached of a coming apocalypse.
Asahara is on death row and in September lost his last chance for an appeal. Endo, however, still has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Endo was convicted of conspiring with Asahara to spray the Nazi-invented sarin gas in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in June 1994 and helping to produce the gas used for the attacks on Tokyo subways in March 1995.
The Matsumoto gassing killed seven people, while the subway attack left 12 people dead and thousands of others injured.
"The two sarin attacks were vicious and extremely cruel," the judge said, as quoted by Jiji Press. "The cases were tragic and left society with unmeasurable fear."
Endo, who studied viruses and genetic engineering as a postgraduate at the prestigious Kyoto University, testified he began to follow Asahara as he felt "the limitations of science."
He has voiced remorse over his involvement in crimes but denied he took part with the intention of killing people.
Rejecting his denial, the judge said: "The accused made his own decision to become involved."

"Aum offshoot reports founding"

("Asahi," May 08, 2007)

Toyko, Japan - An offshoot group of the former Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult formally reported its founding to the government's Public Security Intelligence Agency on Monday.
The group named Hikari no Wa (Ring of lights) is headed by former senior Aum member Fumihiro Joyu. Aum changed its name to Aleph after members were indicted for a series of crimes culminating in the deadly sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
Akitoshi Hirosue, vice representative of the offshoot group, reported not only the establishment of the new group but also the process of its founding as well as membership details.
As of Sunday, the group had 57 live-in communal followers and 106 others who have their own place of residence.
The group's senior members met Saturday to approve the doctrines of the organization.
Meanwhile, the security agency regards the offshoot group as under the influence of Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, who is on death row. For this reason, the agency will continue to monitor the group, officials said.

"Leader of breakaway group vows to distance it from Japanese doomsday cult"

(AP, March 08, 2007)

Toyko, Japan - The leader of a new group that has split from the doomsday cult that carried out deadly nerve gas attacks on Tokyo's subways in 1995 said Thursday his group will distance itself from the cult's jailed founder and his teachings.
Fumihiro Joyu, who succeeded cult guru Shoko Asahara as leader in 2002, said he and 57 other followers are leaving the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was renamed Aleph in 2000, to form a new group.
The breakaway group has not yet been named, Joyu told reporters at its headquarters in Tokyo.
In September, Japan's top court upheld a 2004 death sentence for Asahara for the subway gassing and a string of other attacks that killed 27 people.
The cult, which once had 10,000 members in Japan and claimed another 30,000 in Russia, has split into factions in recent years.
Authorities said last year that about 1,650 people in Japan and 300 in Russia continue to believe in Asahara's teachings.
Joyu, 44, who used to be Asahara's top lieutenant, said his group will ban the use of teaching materials from the cult and will not give any status to Asahara.
"We will keep demanding that Asahara sincerely reflect on himself until his execution is carried out," he said.
Before the subway attack, Aum amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
About a dozen cult leaders have been sentenced to death, but most of the cases are under appeal.
Joyu said Aleph could not be disbanded, as some have suggested, because it is responsible for compensating victims of the gassing, and that his new group would shoulder part of the compensation.
Aleph remains under close surveillance by the Public Security Intelligence Agency.
Police and residents also monitor the new group.
"We can't let our guard down just because they change the name," said Kazuyuki Furuma, inside a small watch box outside the headquarters of Joyu's group, taking turns among local residents. "They should be disbanded."

"Ex-cult spokesman to start new group"

(Reuters, March 05, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - The former spokesman for a Japanese doomsday cult responsible for a nerve gas attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 is leaving the cult to set up a new group, Japanese media said on Monday.
Fumihiro Joyu, 44, who at one point was also the number two leader of Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), will take around a quarter of the group's remaining members with him when he leaves, Kyodo news agency said.
Aum admitted in 1999 to being involved in the sarin attack, which killed 12 and injured thousands. In the following year it changed its name to Aleph, with its leaders insisting the cult was benign.
After a trial lasting nearly a decade, former cult guru Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death for masterminding the attack. His sentence was confirmed in September and he is on death row.
The cult has divided into two factions, one of which supports Joyu and is critical of Asahara, and the other supporting Asahara, Kyodo said.
According to Kyodo, on Monday Joyu told Japan's Public Security Investigation Agency, which is in charge of public security and has been monitoring Aum for a number of years, that he intends to establish the new group. An agency official said he was unable to confirm the report.
Joyu was often seen on Japanese television denying Aum's involvement in the attack and won admirers, especially among teenage girls, who saw him as handsome and articulate.
He served a three-year term in prison for perjury and was released in 1999.
The new group will be established with 60 full-time and 200 lay members, but the timing of its foundation and its name have yet to be decided. Kyodo said the cult currently has some 400 full-time and 690 lay members.
The head of the Public Security Investigation Agency told Reuters last year that full-time cult members number around 650 and about another 1,000 are lay members in Japan, with around 300 members in Russia. In 1995 there were about 11,400 members in Japan and about 40,000 in Russia.
He said the group continued to pose a grave threat to the public.

"AUM death cult's mouthpiece Joyu to form splinter cult"

("Mainichi Daily News," February 26, 2007)

Fumihiro Joyu, the onetime spokesman for death cult AUM Shinrikyo, and his followers plan to split from the cult to form his own group, insiders said Monday.
Joyu, 44, will form a group less influenced by guru Shoko Asahara, who is on Death Row after being convicted of masterminding the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 and injured thousands more.
Public safety authorities are keeping a close watch on AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, to see how it reacts to the loss of one of its best-known members.
"Membership of the new group is voluntary and they are going to study religion. They plan to report the new group's formation to public safety authorities," an insider said.
Public safety officials remain wary of the cult. "They're just trying to put on a show for the public and safety officials, claiming that they've given up on Asahara. Nothing has changed," a public safety official said.
Sources said that of AUM's roughly 650 followers, about 60 will follow Joyu to form a new group, which as yet remains unnamed. Joyu's followers are believed to be keen on ending the practice of assigning cultists with holy names and ranking their positions.
Joyu's group also plans to destroy books, mantra videos and electronic data featuring Asahara.
AUM has recently split into two groups, the Joyu faction, which favors weakening the influence of Asahara's teachings, and the Anti-Joyu faction, which wants to retain the guru's effects. The groups have been acting independently since July 2006.

"Faith in Aum guru resurges as Joyu moves to form his own group"

by Hiroshi Matsubara ("IHT/Asahi," February 03, 2007)

Toyko, Japan - The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult may be gone, but it certainly is not forgotten.
Now, Aum's charismatic former spokesman is in the final stages of creating a new religious group based on his own teachings.
Fumihiro Joyu says he hopes to set up his new cult by June. But only a limited number of disciples from the renamed Aleph cult will likely follow him because of a resurgence in loyalty to Chizuo Matsumoto, the Aum founder who orchestrated numerous crimes in defense of his cult as it aimed to foment revolution.
Unless members cut their emotional attachment to Matsumoto, Joyu said the cult system to which he has devoted his life will collapse.
"We need to create a new group right now so that we (Aleph) don't go under when Matsumoto is executed," Joyu said.
Many still revere Matsumoto but are prohibited from meeting with the former guru at the Tokyo Detention House as visitors to each death-row inmate are limited to the individual's lawyers and immediate family members.
Still, members routinely gather in front of the facility in Tokyo's Kosuge district to offer prayers to the man who masterminded the March 20, 1995, sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system that left 12 dead and thousands sickened.
Dozens of followers have been encouraged by former Aum leaders to remain faithful to Matsumoto's doctrine, according to a pro-Matsumoto member.
Given that Matsumoto, 51, could be executed at any time - his death sentence was finalized with the Supreme Court's rejection of his special appeal on Sept. 15 last year - loyal followers likely will react very emotionally when the inevitable happens, observers say.
Without Matsumoto as a living representation of Aum's teachings, die-hard followers may look to his children for inspiration even though they are not involved in Aleph's daily activities at this stage, according to the Aum member and another expert on the cult.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Joyu, 44, said despite the resurgence of faith in Aum's bearded founder, it is unlikely those members would seek to retaliate against society after he is hanged.
Joyu said that is because most of them are drained physically and mentally by the upheaval in their lives since Matsumoto was arrested. He also noted they are getting older.
Aleph says that about 400 members still engage in communal life at roughly 30 facilities across Japan and that fewer than 700 lay followers support their activities through donations.
Joyu said he initially expected that around 100 Aleph members will join his as-yet unnamed cult.
"But now it looks like less than 60 will become my followers," he said.
A key reason for this, Joyu added, is the state of mind of members who are dreading the day they learn that Matsumoto's execution has been carried out.
"When it happens, their emotions will become very unsettled," he said. "I fear for their mental health."
Several pro-Matsumoto members said recently that Joyu's departure will make it easier for them to concentrate on Matsumoto's teachings and publicly state their faith in him.
A key factor for the resurgence of goodwill toward Matsumoto likely lies in the fact that members have been allowed to meet with other former Aum leaders at the Tokyo Detention House who are appealing their death sentences.
One such follower said he had been visiting the facility in Katsushika Ward several times each week since February last year to meet with them and offer prayers to Matsumoto. The man, who is in his 30s, said he regularly meets with Kiyohide Hayakawa, Tomomasa Nakagawa, Tomomitsu Niimi and three other former leaders for "religious advice."
The three he named were all sentenced to death. Until a few years ago, the authorities would not allow such visits, the man said.
"While some of them began expressing their doubts about Aum and their belief in Matsumoto (in court testimony), they have apparently overcome this period of self-doubt," the man said. "It is encouraging for me to talk to them as it strengthens my faith in Aum."
He said many disciples cling to the hope that Matsumoto's children will take the reins of Aleph once public anger toward the guru dies down.
Until then, the man said the members are determined to maintain religious faith and practice Matsumoto's teachings in reclusive communes.
"Increasingly, they will want one of his children to be the new guru," said Hiromi Shimada, researcher of religious studies at the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology. "But I very much doubt that society will let them officially worship a member of the Matsumoto family any time soon.
"In fact, just as Joyu is in a predicament, so, too, is the pro-Matsumoto faction. Essentially, they are both in gridlock," Shimada said.
Joyu was sentenced to a three-year prison term for perjury and released in 1999. Since then, as head of Aleph, he has publicly tried to distance himself from Matsumoto. Joyu said his efforts to rebuild the group meant that he and his followers had to get out from under the guru's influence.
Joyu represented Aum Shinrikyo's interests in Russia until the years leading up to the 1995 sarin attack that was carried out on the instructions of Matsumoto.
However, he is among a handful of former top Aum leaders who were not charged in murder cases.
As a step to forge a new identity with a distinctive name and doctrine, the pro-Joyu group will abandon all books, icons and other items that it inherited from Aum.
Once this is done, no later than the end of February, Joyu will set up an "Internet training hall" to make his own teachings available to a wider audience.
Joyu said the deification of Matsumoto was one of Aum's fundamental problems as it caused followers to blindly carry out his orders, even when "heinous terrorism" was involved. He said his new religion will ban any form of deification of individuals so that members can focus on the "sacredness in all human beings and nature."
Traditional Buddhist statues will replace Matsumoto's pictures, and instruction books written by Joyu will take the place of those used by the former guru.
Members will also do yoga along lines developed by Aum to "experience supernatural phenomenon and ultimately attain enlightenment," Joyu said.
"The problem was that Matsumoto tried to become another Christ," he said. "Other than that, there still are innovative aspects in Aum discipline which can help people to experience supernatural power. It will be a carrot to attract new followers."
Unless the groups attract new followers, neither faction of Aleph will survive, said Joyu, citing the advanced years of members and growing cases of illness.
"Aleph now is much more like a welfare home in which those who can work support the weaker members through donations," Joyu said. "But this structure needs to change for a new group to survive."

"AUM cult members visit 1995 subway sarin attack site"

("Kyodo," January 06, 2007)

Tokyo, Japan - A group of AUM Shinrikyo cult members close to the current leader Fumihiro Joyu visited on Wednesday the Tokyo subway's Kasumigaseki Station, one of th e sites of the deadly subway sarin gas attacks by the cult in 1995, and offered prayers there, they said Saturday.
The members said they tried to console the victims' souls and intend to go to other sites where AUM members committed heinous crimes, including another sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture in 1994, through next month.
Joyu, 44, did not join the visit to the subway station, they said. The subway gas attacks killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000 injured.
Police sources said the move was apparently aimed at publicly promoting the group's desire to fully leave the influence of AUM founder Shoko Asahara, a death row inmate who led the crimes.
On Wednesday morning, more than 10 pro-Joyu members of the cult offered a silent prayer at several locations in the station after saying, "We swear we will not let a similar incident happen again," the members said.
The places the group visited included the platform of the Chiyoda Line where one of the attacked trains pulled in on the morning of March 20, 1995.
The visit was part of an annual seminar the cult, now calling itself Aleph, held during the year-end and New Year's holidays, they said.
The cult is reportedly in an internal struggle between those favoring Joyu and those still strictly believing in Asahara's teachings.

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