Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"Japan Cult Leader Expresses Remorse"

("Associated Press", December 30, 1999)

TOKYO (AP) -- Fumihiro Joyu, a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways, has expressed remorse for the crimes he has committed, the cult said in a statement Thursday.
Joyu was released Wednesday from prison after serving a three-year sentence for perjury and forgery. He was one of Aum Shinri Kyo's only senior leaders who was not charged in connection with the nerve gas attack, which left 12 people dead.
The statement, issued through the cult's current leader, Tatsuko Muraoka, did not mention the subway attack, or whether Joyu had expressed remorse over the deaths it caused.
Instead, it said only that Joyu has expressed ``deep regret for the crimes he personally committed,'' and has relinquished an honorary religious title given him by the cult's founder, Shoko Asahara.
Asahara is currently on trial for allegedly masterminding the subway attack.
Upon leaving prison, Joyu confirmed his intention to rejoin the cult and officials fear he could fill the power vacuum left by the arrest and imprisonment of most of its previous leaders.
Despite intense crackdowns since the subway gassing, Aum is estimated to have more than 2,000 members.


"Figure in Japanese Cult Freed From Jail, and Mobbed by Press"

by Howard W. French ("The New York Times", December 30, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 29 -- Amid an explosion of camera flashes and a frenzy of speculation over future threats from the sect, Japan today released the charismatic spokesman of the religious cult responsible for the deadly gas attack on Tokyo's subway system in 1995.
The spokesman, Fumihiro Joyu, 37, is the group's de facto No. 2 figure. He had been imprisoned since 1997 on perjury charges unrelated to the attack with sarin gas, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
A white van carrying Mr. Joyu from a prison in Hiroshima for a flight to Tokyo and another van that took him from Haneda Airport were tracked by helicopter-borne cameras broadcasting live on national television. On the ground, an army of other journalists followed him in cars as he made his way from the airport toward the Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku, one of the Tokyo's most crowded districts.
In the weeks leading up to Mr. Joyu's release, hand wringing was rampant in Japan about the possible resurrection of his group, Aum Shinrikyo, under the leadership of a man who was once -- even shortly after the attack -- as popular as any rock star in this country.
The doe-eyed Mr. Joyu's boyish good looks and reputation for cunning made him a teen idol for both sexes and have long been considered to be among his sect's greatest assets.
Aum's paramount leader, the blind guru-like figure Shoko Asahara, 44, is on trial on charges of ordering the subway attack. Two of the group's other leaders have been convicted and may face the death penalty.
Mr. Joyu was leading Aum's Russian chapter at the time and was not charged in the attack. He was detained in the Hiroshima prison on perjury charges relating to an illegal real estate deal.
Reflecting the deepening sense of public disapproval toward the group, Mr. Joyu was denied a room at the hotel and spent the next several hours wending his way around the city, reporters in tow, in search of a place to stay.
In the end the group settled on housing him in the apartment of another member in the nearby city of Yokohama, where television crews and more than 100 reporters quickly set up their stakeout positions.
The circus that followed drew crowds of onlookers and protests from right-wing groups circulating in sound trucks blasting slogans like: "Out with Aum! Out with Joyu!"
In the only indication of his plans, Mr. Joyu said he was returning to the sect, in Tokyo, but intended to "rest quietly for a while." Partly in anticipation of his release, the government recently won passage of a new law giving it broad powers to suppress any organization that has committed "indiscriminate mass murder during the last 10 years."
By February the country's Public Security Examination Commission is widely expected to rule that the government may apply the new law to Aum, thereby requiring the group to submit reports on its members' activities and assets every three months.
Aum Shinrikyo, for its part, has fought back with something of a charm campaign recently, apologizing for the sarin attack for the first time and making an unusual pledge to refrain from recruiting new members.
Shoko Egawa, one authority on the group, described Mr. Joyu as something of an organizational genius who has "aggressively taken part in the management of the cult," but who has come to be deeply associated in the public mind with the gas attack.


"AUM executive freed"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 30, 1999)

Tokyo crimebusters are on red alert after top AUM Shinrikyo cultist Fumihiro Joyu was released from prison and returned to the cult's Yokohama office on Wednesday.
Security officials believe 37-year-old Joyu, formerly the cult's top spokesman, still has influence on AUM followers, and think that his release may solidify the notorious group.
The doomsday cult's presence is increasingly unwelcome in many areas across the nation.
Before his imprisonment, Joyu, along with the cult's founder and guru, Shoko Asahara, was seen as the frontman of AUM Shinrikyo, partly because he often appeared in TV programs and gave magazines interviews in his role as spokeman.
On Wednesday, TV footage covering his release showed Joyu looking gaunt, showing the strain of four years under arrest and imprisonment for perjury and document falsification.
The Public Security Investigation Agency believes Joyu may become one of the cult's leaders again, saying in its report for 1999 that it "is focusing its attention on how (Joyu) would lead the cult" after his release.
After he was released from Hiroshima Prison on Wednesday morning, as expected, Joyu published a statement for the media and declared that he is returning to the cult.
"I will not meet the press today, and will take a rest. I will talk (with the media) later," Joyu's statement said.
The words of a local university student, who watched Joyu being released, may represent the public's sentiment. "I think that he will become a charismatic leader of AUM Shinrikyo," the student said.
In the AUM hierarchy, Joyu is second only to guru Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
In a recent letter to an AUM senior member, Joyu said he plans to become a pillar of the cult by engaging in spiritual activities.
As he is one of the most well-known AUM senior members, the media gave extensive coverage to his release. When a car carrying him left Hiroshima Prison, hundreds of police officers and reporters were watching.
He then flew from Hiroshima to Tokyo's Haneda Airport where police were mobilized to guard him and several other AUM members.
Joyu reportedly tried to check in at a hotel in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. But employees of the hotel told him and other AUM members that the hotel would not admit them because the presence of police and reporters following them would disturb other guests.
Finally, Joyu had to go to the cult's Yokohama office.

"Japanese Cult Rising Again: Aum Gathers Recruits, Profits After '95 Gas Attack"

by Kathryn Tolbert ("The Washington Post", December 29, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 29 (Wednesday) - Aum Supreme Truth, the doomsday cult that carried out a deadly nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, is still recruiting members, making money and--with the release from jail this morning of Fumihiro Joyu--getting back a leader who could give the group new strength, according to Japanese analysts and a government report.
As the trials of cult founder Shoko Asahara and dozens of his followers on murder, kidnapping and other charges drag on, Aum has continued to run profitable businesses in personal computers, publishing and construction, and to "recover" members who had left the cult, according to a report released last week by the Public Security Investigation Agency, an arm of the Justice Ministry.
Aum's personal computer sales generated a $68 million profit last year, the report said. Aum also has used the personals section of Internet pages as a way to try to recruit new members and has launched an Internet home page in English.
Aum is estimated to have about 2,000 followers in Japan today, compared to the 10,000 it claimed at the time five of its top members released deadly sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system during morning rush-hour on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000.
Hundreds of its members were arrested, and the cult was stripped of its religious status, forcing it into bankruptcy the following year. Although Aum was widely reviled, it waged a successful public relations campaign to avoid being outlawed under a 1952 anti-subversion law. A panel ruled that there was no reason to believe the group still posed a threat to society, and there was not enough public support to apply the anti-subversion law in a country that had been subject to abusive police powers before and during World War II.
However, two new laws went into effect Monday that are aimed at giving police more power to monitor the group's activities and to help compensate victims of its crimes.
Aum campaigned vigorously against passage of the laws, announcing on Sept. 30 that it was temporarily suspending all activities and shutting down its branches while it conducted an internal review. On Dec. 1, it admitted for the first time that its members were involved in the subway attack and said it would offer compensation to families of the victims of that attack, and others. Aum was criticized, however, for not apologizing for the attacks.
Last Sunday, an Aum representative took that additional step. The acting leader, Tatsuko Muraoka, went to the home of a victim of an Aum gas attack in Matsumoto City that killed seven people in 1994 and apologized.
"If they had admitted the responsibility on the crimes, and if they had made an apology earlier, the way of deliberation of anti-Aum bills in [parliament] might have been different," said Shoko Egawa, an author and expert on Aum.
The new law would require Aum to report its activities every three months, and give police authority to inspect Aum facilities without warrants. Police applied Monday for permission to put the measure into effect, but before they can act a seven-member panel of judges, lawyers and academics must decide whether such a law can be applied to Aum.
Citizens' groups in communities around Japan that have been fighting the presence of Aum in their neighborhoods welcomed the law, hoping police will now relieve them of round-the-clock vigils monitoring--and in some cases blocking--entrances to buildings known to be used by Aum.
But other opponents of Aum worry that strengthening legal curbs on the group simply force it underground and make it harder for authorities to monitor its activities. "Their personal computer sales division was heavily criticized, so they are switching the emphasis from hardware to software," said Egawa. "Software sales can be dome from home, and it will be difficult to grasp who they are and what they do."
Into this struggle comes Fumihiro Joyu, described as second in rank to Asahara, the bearded, nearly blind guru who was arrested in 1995 and is being tried on 17 charges.
At the height of Aum's popularity, Joyu headed its Moscow offices and preached to an estimated 30,000 Russian followers. He returned to Japan to serve as Aum's spokesman after the subway attack and was a familiar face in newspapers and on television, declaring Aum's innocence.
Last June, as his imprisonment for perjury neared an end, he wrote a letter to Aum executives stating his intention to return to full participation in the sect upon his release, according to the Public Security Investigation Agency report. Earlier, the report said, in an appeal to Japan's political leaders aimed at staving off passage of the new laws, he wrote that he would "try to solve problems between Aum and local people and try my best to make sure followers observe various regulations and laws."
"A lot of attention will be paid to how Joyu will guide Aum after he gets out," the report said.
Special correspondent Akiko Yamamoto contributed to this report.

"AUM bigwig vows to stick to spiritual matters"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 29, 1999)

Fumihiro Joyu, an executive member of AUM Shinrikyo, intends to become a spiritual pillar for the cult after his release from prison Wednesday, according to security authorities.
Joyu, 37, had been serving a three-year sentence for perjury and forgery of sealed private documents in Hiroshima Prison.
In a recent letter to another senior member of AUM, Joyu said he wanted to be a pillar of the cult by concentrating on spiritual activities.
"It might be better for me to support the spiritual side of our order than to involve myself in practical business," Joyu wrote.
The statement contradicts his letters to leaders of major political parties in June this year, in which he said he would help the cult to resolve troubles with people living close to AUM facilities after his release.
The security authorities believe that Joyu is trying to re-establish his leading position within the cult by emphasizing his spirituality.
Joyu also acknowledged that he still reveres Shoko Asahara, who is on trial for instigating various AUM crimes including the 1995 poison gas attack on Tokyo subway systems. Joyu described Asahara as a "guru of an exceptional quality," and that he felt a "divinity" in him.
Joyu's position before his imprisonment was one of the highest among the cult alongside a teen-age daughter of Asahara. The third daughter is revered by AUM members as a new guru.
Tatsuko Muraoka, the cult's representative, said that Joyu's willingness to return to AUM "would be respected," but she suggested that he was unlikely to become the cult's leading spokesman as he was before his arrest.
"If we reinstated him to that role, people would be convinced that our order has not changed a bit, (since the days of terrorism)," Muraoka said.
Muraoka recently visited the residence of Yoshiyuki Kono in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, to apologize for the cult's sarin gas attack in the city in 1994, which killed seven people and injured more than 200.
Kono was mistakenly suspected by police and media as the culprit.
On Monday, the Public Security Investigation Agency applied for the permission to monitor the cult's activities under a new anti-AUM law.
Conditions for permission included that instigators of the cult's mass murders must have an influence on current AUM activities.

"Aum offers sarin apology"

("Asahi Shimbun", December 28, 1999)

Aum Shinrikyo has offered an apology to a victim of the cult's 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
Yoshiyuki Kono, who was the first to alert police to the attack, said Monday that members of Aum, headed by acting representative Tatsuko Muraoka, visited his home in Matsumoto on Sunday and apologized for the suffering inflicted by followers of the cult.
Kono's wife was badly injured in the Matsumoto gas attack five years ago, and has been in hospital ever since.
On Dec. 1, Aum publicly admitted its involvement in a series of crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, and apologized to victims and their family members.
According to Kono, Muraoka and two other cult members visited his home at around 10 a.m. Sunday with a bouquet of flowers in hand.
The two parties spoke for nearly five hours.
The cult members opened the discussion by apologizing to Kono for his wife's injuries.
``We can no longer deny that the former cult was involved in the series of crimes,'' Muraoka told Kono. ``We have a moral responsibility.''
Kono replied: ``It would make sense if the ones who carried out the actual crime were here. There's little point in the existing cult apologizing.''

"Locals give AUM law mixed review"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 28, 1999)

A mixture of anxiety and expectation prevailed among residents living near AUM Shinrikyo facilities on Monday as a new law aimed at curbing the cult's activities went into effect .
"We can finally curtail our own vigilance activities," said a resident who was maintaining a watch near an AUM-related facility after learning that Shigeo Kifuji, head of the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency, filed on Monday a demand with the Public Security Examination Commission for permission to monitor the cult.
While the measures, once approved by the commission, will enable the agency as well as police to conduct on-the-spot inspections of the cult's facilities, many other residents were still skeptic about the effectiveness of the latest government procedures.
"It is questionable whether the new law targeting AUM would be effective here in Otawara," said an unnamed resident in the Tochigi prefectural city. Locals here have been maintaining a watch of cult members. "We have no choice but to stay vigilant until the new law goes into full swing," said another resident.
In Otawara on Monday, local residents maintained a watch outside a former inn where more than a dozen cult followers, including an 18-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son of AUM guru Shoko Asahara, reside.
"I am mentally exhausted as we've been monitoring the cult since June," said a 65-year-old local resident outside the compound. "I want [the authorities] to settle [the issue] as soon as possible."
Nevertheless, the residents' group in the area has decided to curtail their watch from this coming Thursday. They will wind down their monitoring from round-the-clock to 14 hours a day, based on their hopes that public authorities would be given the green light for official inspections of the cult.
Meanwhile in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, where nine AUM followers have registered as residents, locals took turns maintaining a watch despite the new law.
"We cannot evaluate the law until its effect becomes clear to us," said one of the residents.
In Kosei, Shiga Prefecture, where cult followers live, residents said they would continue their operations by setting monitoring cameras on a round-the-clock basis.
Meanwhile, the latest government measures are expected to accelerate the departure of some of the 1,500 or so followers from the cult once the official monitoring of the religious cult is authorized and their activities are restricted as a result, experts said.
But in that event, it is likely that many former followers would have a hard time returning to society due to remaining public prejudice, they said.

"Aum doomsday cult's flamboyant spokesman returns"

("Agence France Presse", December 28, 1999)

Almost five years after spreading Nazi-invented Sarin gas in a crazed attack on Tokyo commuters, the Aum Supreme Truth cult could be getting a new figurehead with the release from jail of a leading disciple.
Fumihiro Joyu, the 37-year-old cult number two who worships Aum guru Shoko Asahara as a "messiah," will be freed Wednesday with public fears about the doomsday sect's activities on the rise.
Joyu, 37, is to be released from western Japan's Hiroshima prison at the end of a three-year sentence for perjury over a land purchase deal by the sect.
"He will return to Aum and regain the position of practical leader," said Shoko Egawa, a journalist who has been investigating the cult for more than a decade.
Joyu is one of the longest-serving disciples of Asahara, who is on trial and facing hanging over the 1995 subway gas attack, and ranks higher than any of the six followers who comprise the sect's current collective leadership.
"The most important point is that we should be careful of his calculating character," Egawa said.
The cult last month admitted for the first time some of its members had been involved in the murderous gas attack, as the trial continues of 13 other followers alongside Asahara in the Tokyo District Court.
But Egawa is sceptical about claims by the Aum group that it has turned a new leaf. Joyu in particular is dangerous, she warned.
"We should not forget that he led plans for mass murder with biological weapons, that he also directed the construction of the Sarin plant before he was promoted to the top of the headquarters in Russia in 1993," she said.
Joyu was in Russia running the Aum's Moscow branch when the sect spread Sarin gas in crowded Tokyo subways in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.
He then returned to Japan to become a flamboyant spokesman and media-friendly face of the sinister organisation, which carried out the subway attack allegedly to avenge a police crackdown.
Joyu vigorously defended the cult at news conferences and in magazine interviews.
While he may not have convinced the general public of the group's innocence, the good-looking Aum disciple perplexed many by gaining a devoted following among young Japanese women.
So-called "Joyu chasers" bombarded him with bouquets of flowers and other gifts and beseiged him for autographs at his public appearances.
But when his trial opened in March 1996, Joyu lived up to his reputation by saying: "Master Asahara is the Messiah and everything for me."
Japan's public security agency has stepped up its watch on the Aum Supreme Truth before Joyu's release.
"Inmate Joyu is expected to go back to the sect (after his release), and it will be the focus of our attention which direction he is going to steer the sect," the security agency said in a report released Saturday.
Japanese police Monday sought permission to put the Aum cult under surveillance, as part of a new law cracking down on the sect passed by parliament earlier this month.
The cult escaped being outlawed under legislation banning "subversive activities" in January 1997 when a legal panel ruled there was no reason to believe it could still pose a threat to society.
But it is feared the sect has improved its finances through selling computers and that it is recruiting more followers to add to its claimed 1,500-strong membership.


"Japanese police want Aum sect placed under surveillance"

("Agence France Presse", December 27, 1999)

Japanese police Monday sought permission to put the Aum Supreme Truth cult under surveillance, as part of a new law cracking down on the doomsday sect responsible for a lethal 1995 subway gas attack here.
The Public Security Investigation Agency submitted the request to the Public Security Commission immediately after anti-Aum legislation took effect Monday morning, agency officials said.
"As the law was enforced today, we requested measures to place the Aum Supreme Truth under observation," an agency official said.
Aum cult members killed 12 people and injured thousands when they spread Nazi-invented Sarin gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995. Fourteen Aum members, including cult leader Shoko Asahara, are on trial for the subway attack.
The cult escaped being outlawed under the Subversive Activities Prevention Act in January 1997 when a legal panel ruled there was no reason to believe it could still pose a threat to society.
But parliament curbed its activities in early December after it was feared the sect had improved its finances with computer sales and was recruiting more followers to add to its claimed 1,500-strong membership.
The law, without naming the Aum cult, sets curbs on any organisation which has committed "indiscriminate mass murder" in acquiring land or facilities.
"The doomsday cult carried out random mass murder in order to extend its political doctrine," the agency's request said.
"Asahara was a prime mover behind the attack and is still the leader of the group," it said. "There is a fear that the sect has the potential to cause another indiscriminate murder."
The commission is expected to approve the request in February, reports said.
Once it is approved, police will have the power to raid sect properties without a warrant and demand disclosure of its activities, including its finances.
Asahara, 44, is accused of masterminding and ordering the subway massacre to avenge a police crackdown on his cult. He faces a total of 17 criminal charges.
In September, the court sentenced senior Aum Supreme Truth disciple Masato Yokoyama to hang, the first death penalty meted out for the subway attack. Yokoyama was in charge of making automatic pistols for the sect.
Last month, the cult admitted for the first time some of its members were involved in the subway mass murder.
In two days Aum number-two leader Fumihiro Joyu, 37, is due to be released after three years in prison for perjury and ordering the cult's members to engage in various illegal acts.
The Public Security Investigation Agency said at the weekend it would keep Joyu under watch, fearing he will take charge of the cult with Asahara on trial.


"Japan seeks further restrictions on doomsday cult"

("Agence France Presse", December 27, 1999)

Japan's Justice Ministry has sought further restrictions on the doomsday cult accused of attacking Tokyo's subways with deadly nerve gas.
The call for more pressure on the Aum Shinri Kyo or Supreme Truth Cult comes on the day a new law aimed at countering violent cults goes into effect and just days before a key cult member is scheduled to be released from prison.
But whether the law will be applicable to Aum will be determined by a seven-member Public Security Examination Commission.
A decision is expected in February next year.
Under the new law, Aum would have to report on its activities every three months.
The legislation would also allow the police and government to inspect the group's facilities without warrants.
A separate law that takes effect Monday makes it easier to seize the assets of organizations that commit mass murder and use them to compensate victims.

"National crackdown begins on Aum cult"

("Asahi Shimbun", December 27, 1999)

A law to monitor and control Aum Shinrikyo was enacted today,prompting the director-general of the Public Security Investigation Agency to submit documents necessary to monitor the cult.
Agency officials said Aum Shinrikyo still follows the teachings established by its founder, Chizuo Matsumoto. Matsumoto was indicted and is under trial on charges that he was responsible for the March 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway that killed 12and sickened thousands.
The agency was supported by a written statement from the National Police Agency, which said the cult was still following Matsumoto's preachings and it was appropriate for the agency to submit the documents, the officials said.
The document was submitted to the Public Security Examination Commission, which was to hold a meeting this afternoon discussing whether to apply the law to Aum Shinrikyo. Commission officials said a final decision will be reached in February.
The document stated the reason why it is necessary to monitor the cult was that the cult planned to establish a ``despotic autonomy,'' with Matsumoto becoming its ``dictator.'' Sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system and in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture,in 1994 were both politically motivated, the document said.
The document also said the cult still believes the concept that permits followers to commit murder.
Monitoring under the new law will enable law enforcement authorities to keep track of the cult's activities. The cult would be required to submit names of its senior officials and members, information on property it possesses and the amount of its assets, every three months. Police would also have the authority to search cult facilities.

"Law shrouds AUM in doom"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 27, 1999)

Photos deifying guru Shoko Asahara and idolized by members of AUM Shinrikyo will be used Monday as proof of the need to monitor the doomsday cult, government sources said.
Shigeo Kifuji, head of the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency, will ask the Public Security Examination Commission for permission to monitor the cult in line with a new law aimed at culling it that comes into effect on Monday.
Public-security officials are expected to use a plethora of materials to prove that cultists continue to regard the accused mass murderer Asahara as a godlike figure. The incriminating items range from shrines, photographs and statements given by cultists charged with carrying out the 1995 deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway system - one of the nation's most heinous crimes.
The commission is expected to hear some time in January AUM's views on whether it should be targeted under the new law. The commission will then decide in early February whether the law can be applied to the cult.
Should the commission deem the law to be applicable, AUM will be legally required to submit reports on its members, activities and group assets every three months.
If AUM fails to submit reports or obstructs inspections, or if the agency views the group as posing a threat to society, the cult will be prohibited from using its land and buildings or buying alternatives.
The organization-restricting law, enacted earlier this month, allows the Public Security Investigation Agency to monitor any organization that has committed "indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years" - in effect meaning AUM.
Public Security Investigation Agency officials are expected to use as proof that AUM members continue to idolize Asahara materials itemized into 11 categories.
Among the items it will provide to the commission are a report on statements made by AUM followers who have attended Asahara's murder trial and a shrine adorned with Asahara's photo.
Members of the Adachi Municipal Assembly carried out a probe into the cult in February and confirmed the existence of the shrine devoted to Asahara.
They may also produce a report on AUM followers that maintain a vigil outside the Tokyo Detention Center, where the guru is being held.
In addition, agency officials are expected to use parts of prosecutors' reports, statements by arrested cultists, court rulings, indictments and copies of documents.
A number of AUM members are on trial over a series of crimes or have been found guilty of them. The crimes include the infamous 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000, a 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which left seven dead, and the murders of an anti-AUM lawyer and his family in 1989.
Asahara is on trial for his alleged role in 17 crimes, including the two gas attacks and the 1989 murders.
In early December, AUM acknowledged for the first time its culpability for a series of crimes and apologized to victims and their families.
Anti-AUM lawyers say the move was a desperate bid by the cult to avoid being targeted by the new legislation.


"Lawyers seek death penalty for cultist"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 25, 1999)

Prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Yoshihiro Inoue, a former high-ranking member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, for murder and attempted murder in connection with the 1995 subway gassing and nine other crimes committed by the cult.
The prosecution made the demand in a hearing held at the Tokyo District Court Friday.
During an earlier hearing, Inoue, 29, former head of the cult's self-styled "Intelligence Ministry," has admitted that he was involved in all the 10 cases for which he is under indictment, and apologized to his victims saying, "I was really a big fool."
However, Inoue pleaded not guilty of murder in connection with the sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains in March 1995. Instead, he demanded that he be found guilty of aiding and abetting the murder in the case. "I merely served as a messenger between top-ranking members of the cult and those who carried out the gassing," he told the court.
According to the indictment, Inoue conspired with cult founder Shoko Asahara to plan and direct a sarin gas attack on subway trains, murdering 12 people.
In Friday's hearing, the prosecution pointed out that Inoue played a leading role in the nerve-gas attack on the subway system.

"Focus magazine staff fined over trespassing"

("Kyodo News Service", December 24, 1999)

HIROSHIMA, Dec. 24 (Kyodo) - The Hiroshima Summary Court on Friday ordered the editor-in-chief of the weekly photo magazine Focus, an editorial member and two contracted photographers to pay fines for conspiring to illegally enter a building near Hiroshima Prison to take shots of an imprisoned member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult.
In a summary procedure without holding hearings, the court ordered the four to pay fines of 80,000 to 100,000 yen each after the Hiroshima Public Prosecutors Office issued summary indictments to the four the same day.
Igo Yamamoto, 53, editor-in-chief of the weekly published by Shinchosha Co., paid the fines together with the three other defendants immediately after the order was issued.
According to the court order, the two photographers trespassed on the roof of a condominium west of the prison in the city's Naka Ward on Aug. 17 and set up a camera with a telephoto lens directed at the prison after conspiring with the editors.
''We accept the punishment and deeply regret the incident, and apologize to those we have caused trouble for,'' Yamamoto said.
The four intended to get photos of Fumihiro Joyu, 36, a senior AUM member who is serving a three-year term and is to be released from the prison Monday, the order said.
The prosecutors said fining the four was inevitable as they had tried to violate the prisoner's right to privacy.
Joyu was convicted of conspiring with former AUM lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama to forge documents in connection with the group's purchase of land in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in 1990.
He told investigators he committed the crimes on the order of AUM founder and leader Shoko Asahara.
Asahara is still on trial, having been indicted on 17 counts, including the March 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack that killed 12 people and injured thousands.


"Death penalty sought for ex-AUM member Inoue"

("Kyodo News Service", December 24, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 24 (Kyodo) - Prosecutors demanded Friday the death penalty for Yoshihiro Inoue, a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult accused of murdering fellow followers and taking part in the fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
Inoue, 29, indicted on 10 counts of murder and other crimes, has admitted the charges and apologized to the families of victims during his trial at the Tokyo District Court, saying, ''I was really a big fool.''
Prosecutors said Inoue collaborated with AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, to plan and direct the sarin attack, which left 12 people dead and thousands injured.
Fourteen people, including Inoue and Asahara, have been indicted in the sarin attack. Prosecutors have demanded death sentences for four of the five former AUM members who allegedly released the gas in the subway system.


"Aum gives trustee funds for redress"

("Japan Times", December 21, 1999)

Aum Shinrikyo has used some of the money it earned from the sale of a number of premises in the town of Kiso-Fukushima, Nagano Prefecture, to compensate victims of crimes the cult has been accused of, the cult's bankruptcy administrator said Tuesday.
Administrator Saburo Abe told a news conference Tuesday that the cult contacted him earlier this month to say that it plans to hand over some of the money that the town pays for the property. It is the first time that the cult has handed over money to compensate its victims.
Abe said he has received 4.97 million yen.
In a statement issued Dec. 1, Aum admitted for the first time its culpability in a series of crimes, apologized to victims and said it will provide as much compensation as possible.
Aum has expressed its intention to continue negotiations over which assets it will be able to transfer to the trustee and how much it will be able to offer to compensate victims, according to sources close to the case.
The next round of negotiations is slated for Jan. 17. The cult is selling its facilities across Japan ahead of the scheduled enforcement Dec. 27 of two laws -- one aimed at cracking down on Aum's activities and the other to pave the way for the seizure of the cult's properties to compensate victims.

"Prosecutors seek death penalty for cultist in lawyer's slaying"

("Japan Times", December 17, 1999)

Prosecutors demanded the death penalty Friday for Aum Shinrikyo figure Kiyohide Hayakawa over his alleged role in the November 1989 slaying of a Yokohama lawyer, the attorney's wife and their baby son.
Hayakawa, 50, once one of Aum founder Shoko Asahara's closest aides, has also been charged with other crimes, including the lynching of errant cultist Shuji Taguchi and assisting Aum's production of LSD and the nerve gas sarin.
Reading a statement before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Hayakawa took an active role in killing lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto by pinning his legs while fellow cultist Kazuaki Okazaki strangled him.
Hayakawa also took part in the killing of Sakamoto's wife, Satoko, by taking turns with other cultists in strangling her, prosecutors said.
The Sakamoto family was asleep when the cultists raided their apartment at 3 a.m., they said.
Sakamoto, who was helping parents to retrieve their children from the cult and preparing a lawsuit against Aum, was seen as an obstacle to the cult.
Prosecutors told the court that even though the defendant may have been acting on Asahara's orders, the actions he and five other cultists took toward killing Sakamoto, his wife and their 1-year-old son, Tatsuhiko, were "brutal and inhuman" and cannot be pardoned.
"The agony of the victims cannot be expressed in words," their statement says.
Hayakawa played a key role by instructing his five accomplices about how to carry out the slayings, prosecutors said, calling the crime "organized and well-planned in nature" and allowing no room for leniency.
The brutal killings by the six men, even after Satoko Sakamoto begged for mercy for her son while she was on the verge of death, "raises our anger from the bottom of our hearts," their statement says.
Parents of the couple have said nothing can end their sorrow and anger, noting even the death penalty is not enough, prosecutors said.
Okazaki was sentenced to death earlier by the district court for his role in the Sakamoto slayings, a ruling he has since appealed to the high court.
In the lynching of Shuji Taguchi, who was trying to escape the cult, Hayakawa and two other cultists held his shoulders while cultist Tomomitsu Niimi strangled him, prosecutors alleged.
Upon orders from Asahara, the four killed Taguchi because he had seen
another cultist murdered and the cult feared he might make the incident public if he fled, prosecutors said.
The motive is "very self-centered" and only considered the interest of the cult. "We can see no religious faith in the act," their statement says, adding the cult "is simply a criminal organization."
Hayakawa has pleaded guilty to the murder and lynching charges against him. During court proceedings, he has expressed remorse for the victims, saying his actions were "unpardonable as a human being."
However, prosecutors dismissed the apology, stating "we can only see that as a ploy by him to get a reduced punishment."
Hayakawa's lawyers will deliver their final argument March 17.

"Death penalty sought for AUM suspect in lawyer's murder"

(Kyodo News Service, December 17, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 17 (Kyodo) - Prosecutors on Friday demanded the death penalty for Kiyohide Hayakawa, a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo religious group accused of murdering a lawyer and his family and another member of the sect.

''The pain of the family of three, who were robbed of their lives without being able to resist, is beyond description. It is an offense that counters logic,'' the prosecution said in summing up its case at the Tokyo District Court.

Hayakawa, 50, has been indicted on several counts, including murdering Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their 1-year-old son Tatsuhiko, at their home in Yokohama in November 1989. Sakamoto was a lawyer who was helping several people with legal claims against AUM.

Hayakawa is one of six AUM members implicated in the murder of the lawyer and his family.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced former senior AUM member Kazuaki Okazaki, 39, to death in October last year, the first death sentence handed down in trials of AUM members. Okazaki appealed the death sentence for the 1989 murders in the following month.

Okazaki has admitted that he and other AUM members killed anti-AUM lawyer Sakamoto and his family.

On Wednesday prosecutors demanded the death sentence for Satoru Hashimoto, 32, another former member of AUM.

AUM founder Shoko Asahara has also been charged with murdering Sakamoto and his family.

Hayakawa has admitted all seven charges against him, including being responsible for completing a plant for making sarin gas at an AUM facility in Yamanashi Prefecture by procuring equipment and raw material in 1993-1994.

During his trial, Hayakawa said, ''I felt I had to tell the truth after thinking about the suffering and sadness the victims went through.''

Prosecutors said Friday that Asahara, 44, ordered the murder of Sakamoto as his activities were seen as a major threat to the group, which had just been recognized as a religious organization.

Hayakawa has also been indicted for conspiring with Asahara in February 1989 to strangle Shuji Taguchi, 21, who had indicated he wanted to leave the group.

Sarin gas was used in the 1994 attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system. The two crimes claimed 19 lives and injured more than 5,400 people.

Hayakawa, who had been a prominent member of AUM since its early days in 1986, is alleged to have visited Sakamoto in October 1989 with other senior AUM members to force him to retract his criticisms of the religious group.


"Court ups heat on AUM"

("Mainichi Shimbun", December 16, 1999)

In a move that blocked AUM Shinrikyo from hiding its assets, the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday banned a local government in Nagano Prefecture from paying the cult in the purchase of a building and the surrounding land.

In a provisional order sent to the Minamiaiki Municipal Government, the court seized 10.5 million yen that the municipality had intended to pay an AUM Shinrikyo follower to buy the property.

The decision was in response to a request made by Saburo Abe, a lawyer and the AUM Shinrikyo's chief bankruptcy receiver, who is stepping up efforts this month to prevent the cult from selling their assets to local governments and hiding the proceeds.

In the decision, the court for the first time invoked the newly enacted law regarding the recovery of assets of bankrupt corporations.

If the Minamiaiki Municipal Government deposits the 10.5 million yen with the local legal affairs bureau in accordance with the court order, the bankruptcy receivers will eventually recover the money after the court issues a full-fledged order that the money be seized.

According to investigations conducted by the cult's bankruptcy receivers, an AUM Shinrikyo follower living in Nakano-ku, Tokyo, had used assets he had misappropriated from the cult to buy the facility in Minamiaiki. The municipal government agreed last month to buy the building and its land that the cult had used for an affiliated company for 11.5 million yen, and has already paid 1 million yen in deposit to the follower in whose name the property is registered.

The municipal government had intended to pay the remaining 10.5 million yen to the owner of the property. Earlier this month, Abe urged the mayors of 10 municipalities, including the Aiki Municipal Government, to exercise caution in purchasing facilities from AUM Shinrikyo because such a move would prevent the bankruptcy receivers from collecting assets from the cult.

AUM Shinrikyo's bankruptcy receivers are trying to recover as much of the cult's assets as possible in a bid to pay compensation to the victims of a series of crimes committed by cult followers.


"Death penalty sought for ex-AUM member Hashimoto"

(Kyodo News Service, December 15, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 15 (Kyodo) - Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded the death penalty for former AUM Shinrikyo cultist Satoru Hashimoto for his part in the 1989 murder of an anti-AUM lawyer and his family and the sarin nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.

As a consequence of the crimes, a total of 10 people were killed and many more were injured, the prosecution said in summing up its case at the Tokyo District Court.

The prosecutors said Hashimoto, a 32-year-old karate practitioner who once served as bodyguard for AUM founder Shoko Asahara, blindly obeyed Asahara and actively took part in the crimes because he wanted to be promoted within the cult.

Hashimoto has been indicted for murdering anti-AUM lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, then 33, his wife Satoko, then 29, and their son Tatsuhiko, then 1, at their home in Yokohama in November 1989.

He has also been indicted for killing seven people and injuring many others by spraying sarin nerve gas in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994 and for completing a mass-production plant for sarin gas in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture after procuring equipment and raw materials in 1993-1994.

The defense counsel will hold final pleading proceedings Feb. 16.

In connection with the murder of the Sakamoto family, former senior AUM member Kazuaki Okazaki was sentenced to death in late October, as prosecutors had demanded. Okazaki, 39, has appealed.

Hashimoto is the first defendant for whom prosecutors have demanded the death sentence in connection with the Matsumoto sarin attack.

Even after the Sakamoto family murder and the Matsumoto gas attack, Hashimoto did not leave the cult but continued to take part in a number of unlawful acts and his action are thus unpardonable, prosecutors said.

In the trial, Hashimoto admitted to joining the cult's attack on lawyer Sakamoto and having the intention to kill him, but he said he did not know Sakamoto had a wife and child.

Hashimoto also admitted to driving the van used in the sarin gas spraying in Matsumoto, but denied he had intended to kill people.


"Diet enacting bills for small firms, anti-AUM, ends"

(Kyodo News Service, December 15, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 15 (Kyodo) - The 146th extraordinary Diet session ended Wednesday having enacted 88 bills, including legislation to help small businesses, to crack down on the AUM Shinrikyo cult and to ban corporate donations to individual politicians.

During the 48-day session, all 74 bills proposed by the government, seven of the 26 proposed by individual lawmakers and seven carried over from the previous session were enacted.

A pair of government-proposed bills on measures to prevent nuclear accidents were enacted in the wake of Japan's worst nuclear accident, which took place Sept. 30 in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, about one month before the session began Oct. 29.

One of the bills stipulates that the central government is responsible for countermeasures after nuclear accidents, while the other revises a current law to require periodic inspections of nuclear fuel facilities.

The extraordinary Diet session, dubbed the ''small businesses Diet'' by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, also enacted two government-proposed bills aimed at helping small firms raise funds and to nurture venture businesses, in line with the government's efforts to revive the economy.

The Diet session also approved a 6,789 billion yen second supplementary budget for fiscal 1999.

A bill proposed by lawmakers banning corporate donations to individual politicians was enacted, while another adding further restrictions to corporate donations to political parties was carried over to the next session.

The legislation bans the donations to politicians from Jan. 1, next year, but punishments for violators will be imposed from April 2000 following a three-month moratorium.

In response to loan-collection scandals involving ''shoko'' nonbank moneylenders, lawmakers revised the money lending business law to lower the upper ceiling on interest rates to 29.2% per annum from the current 40.004%.

A bill to reduce 20 of the 200 proportional representation seats in the 500-seat House of Representative was not enacted and was passed over to the regular Diet session, which convenes in January.


"Court stops Nagano village from buying AUM premises"

(Kyodo News Service, December 15, 1999)

TOKYO, Dec. 15 (Kyodo) - The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday seized 10.5 million yen that a village in Nagano Prefecture attempted to use to pay for a facility belonging to the AUM Shinrikyo cult, effectively preventing the cult from concealing assets until anti-AUM laws come into effect at the end of the month.

Saburo Abe, the lawyer in charge of bankruptcy proceedings for AUM, asked the court to provisionally seize the money that the village of Minamiaiki was attempting to pay the cult for premises in the village.

The seizure will effectively stop the sale and therefore prevent AUM from concealing assets before the new laws aimed at cracking down on the cult take effect late this month, said Abe, who is in charge of compensating victims of the cult.

One of the laws will allow for the seizure of properties to compensate victims of AUM, while the other is designed to restrict the cult's activities. The legislation will come into effect Dec. 27.

Abe said he will also try to stop the sale of AUM properties in the towns of Fukiage in Saitama Prefecture and Kisofukushima in Nagano Prefecture. AUM has had a series of conflicts with residents in the two towns.

AUM has admitted culpability for the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000, and has been implicated in other crimes.

The seizure will make it easier to get the cult to pay damages to the victims of the attacks, Abe said.

The two laws, while not directly mentioning AUM, are aimed at any organization that has committed ''indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years.''

The second of the two laws will allow the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency to monitor the cult, and will allow police to inspect AUM facilities without a search warrant.

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Revised last: 13-03-2000