Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"Aum agrees to hand over 5 cult facilities"

("Yomiuri Shimbun", January 18, 2000)

Executives of the Aum Supreme Truth cult have expressed their willingness to hand over five of its facilities to Saburo Abe, its bankruptcy administrator and lawyer, in partial compliance with his request, it was learned Monday. Abe plans to sell the facilities and use their proceeds to compensate Aum victims and their families.
Cult leaders said they plan to hand over five facilities, including one in Tokigawamura, Saitama Prefecture. In addition, the cult is likely to give Abe the proceeds from the sales of two facilities--one in Minamiaikimura, Nagano Prefecture, and another in Fukiagemachi, Saitama Prefecture--both of which Abe confiscated last month.
Abe had requested that Aum hand over nine facilities across the country. However, the cult refused to give up four buildings, claiming that two facilities in Shiga Prefecture were private property and unrelated to the cult, and that two others in Gifu Prefecture were not under the cult's jurisdiction.
In addition, cult leaders said part of the five facilities to be confiscated would be handed over as private property of cult members, not as cult assets.
They added that they also plan to give up a facility inhabited by cult members in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture. Although the building's former owner had filed an eviction order against the tenants, the cult had asked for a one-year grace period to leave the facility for the sake of current residents.
Aum: New law unconstitutional In preparation for a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aum on Monday issued a written statement to the Public Security Examination Commission. In the statement, the cult argues that a recently enacted law aimed to curtail its activities is unconstitutional.
The statement, submitted by one of its lawyers, was issued partly in response to the application submitted to the commission by the Public Security Investigation Agency seeking permission to monitor the cult's activities.
The statement said that the law, if enforced, would require the cult to periodically submit reports on assets and the names and addresses of members, which would infringe on the freedoms of thought, religion and residence of members. It added that the new law aimed at restricting the cult's activities is unconstitutional and violates human rights.
In a previous written statement issued on Dec. 13, the cult stated it was no longer a menace to public safety.

"Japan's Aum Supreme Truth deposes guru"

(Agence France Presse, January 18, 2000)

Japan's Aum Supreme Truth cult which gassed Tokyo's subway in 1995 on Tuesday deposed its former guru Shoko Asahara and vowed deep-rooted reform.
The doomsday cult would no longer have any gurus, said a sect statement signed by acting cult representative Tatsuko Muraoka, who was taking over as representative.
"Following reform of the sect, former representative Asahara will no longer be the representative," said Muraoka in a copy of the cult statement received by AFP.
"I who have been acting representative will take the post. The new group will not have a guru," she said.
"The position of founder Asahara will be the subject of meditation. He will be regarded as a spiritual existence so he will not be giving directions to followers." Instead of Asahara, the new "fundamental subject of adoration for the new group will be the Great God, Shiva and various Buddhas," said the cult statement.
The sect said it would change its name to "Arefu," the name of a company that Aum Supreme Truth set up in Tokyo in September 1994 which undertakes real estate broking and financing, and holds seminars.
The cult said it would "make it clear that we abandon a part of our teaching." Asahara is still on trial for 17 charges including murder in the March 1995 Sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway which killed 12 people and injured thousands. He denies the charges.
Muraoka said that under the new structure, disciples would be asked to apply for membership again and pledge to obey the law.
"They will make it clear that, far from committing mass murder, they will not murder or injure anyone," said the statement.
"Even if they are given orders to do so by the former representative Asahara, members are banned from illegal activities. To cut the new sect from past incidents, we will ban any communication between members and those responsible for the grave crimes." Muraoka said the sect was not dangerous, decrying as "highly unconstitutional" a law passed last month which aimed to crack down on the cult's activities.
The cult had been expected to hold a news conference Monday with 37-year-old Fumihiro Joyu, a charismatic spokesman who was released from jail on December 29 after a three-year sentence for perjury.
But the news event was delayed for unspecified reasons linked to the venue and Joyu instead made comment in the written statement.
Following various trials and court testimony of Aum Supreme Truth members, "it is acknowledged that some of its members, focussed on several top members, were connected with a series of incidents," he said.
While Asahara's criminal responsibilty could not be determined because of the trial, "the leadership of the current cult has agreed on the understanding that he is believed to have been connected (with the crimes)," Joyu said.
"While Asahara is believed to be a genius meditator, the incidents that his cult has caused cannot be approved of. I would like to apologise for the victims and the deceased's family members," he added.
"I believe that because of these factors, we should go through drastic reform." It was the first time the cult had alleged any connection between the cult leader Shoko Asahara and the crimes.

"Japan greets cult reform with scepticism"

(Agence France Presse, January 18, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 18 (AFP) - Japan delivered a howl of disbelief and scepticism to an announcement Tuesday that the Aum Supreme Truth cult has reformed after its lethal gas attack on Tokyo's subway.
The doomsday cult said it was dropping as its leader jailed former guru Shoko Asahara, changing its name to "Arefu," or Aleph in English, and forcing disciples to reapply for membership while swearing to obey the law.
"The position of founder Asahara will be the subject of meditation. He will be regarded as a spiritual existence so he will not be giving directions to followers," the sect said in a statement It came after the Japanese government last month passed a tough new law to crack down on the cult's activities by allowing giving authorities increased surveillance and disciplinary powers.
The cult is in receivership and an official in the office of bankruptcy administrator Saburo Abe said it had agreed to to sell its property to use revenue for victims' compensation.
Lawyer Taro Takimoto, who heads a legal group battling for the Aum Supreme Truth's victims, said in a statement that the sect's announcement was "certainly a step forward." "But coming from a sect that has lied and lied in the past, it is hard for us to believe what they say," he added.
The most shocking of the cult's crimes was the March 1995 attack on Tokyo's subways, when disciples spread Sarin gas on trains, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.
"Victims are outraged and feel pain about the fact that Shoko Asahara who directed the random mass murder is still the subject of meditation, meaning they are still faithful to him," the lawyer added.
"The procedure to put the sect under surveillance will progress steadily despite the sect's latest move," he predicted.
The anti-cult law gives security authorities the power to take such measures as banning donations to the cult, placing it under surveillance and preventing it buying properties when necessary.
The National Public Security Agency asked late last year for permission to increase surveillance under the new law. A hearing on the request is scheduled for January 20.
Justice Minister Hideo Usui said he had no objections to the cult's latest statement "but the question is whether their moves are aimed at escaping the law." Sadao Asami, professor of religious cult at Tohoku Gakuin University, said the sect's announcement was simply an attempt to escape the rigours of the new legislation.
"Although it said it would compensate for victims and vowed to ignore Asahara's calling, the group felt absolutely no pain for the victims," Asami said.
"What it really feels is that the new law and anti-Aum public opinion are threatening its very existence," he added. "The Aum is very cunning and calculating in makes every move to avert harm to itself." Japan's press was equally scathing.
"What we see from the cult's move is a desperate attempt to continue its existence through every possible means it can come up with," said the respected Asahi Shimbun.
Yoshifu Arita, a leading cult watcher and freelance journalist who has followed Aum Supreme Truth for years, said: "The change in the name does not change what it is." "The cover has been changed but the content will not change. It is a means to deceive the society."

"Japan gas attack cult says guru may be guilty"

by Yvonne Chang (Reuters, January 18, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A Japanese doomsday cult said for the first time on Tuesday that its founder was probably involved in one of the nation's worst mass-murder attempts in 1995, but pledged to keep practicing his religious teachings.

The cult also set out ``drastic reforms,'' including renaming itself, in what may be a reaction to new laws passed in December giving the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on such groups.
In a statement released on the Internet, the cult said that Shoko Asahara was likely involved in the crimes he is now standing trial for, which include the gas attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 and injured thousands.
``Although we cannot say for sure since the trial is still going on, we have come to a consensus that (Shoko) Asahara was likely involved in the series of crimes he is charged with,'' the statement said.
``Asahara is a yoga and Buddhist meditation methods and we will continue to practice those methods inherited from him.'' The 44-year old, half-blind Asahara is on trial for masterminding the subway attack as well as for 16 other crimes, including murder, attempted murder, a separate nerve gas attack and production of weaponry. He has denied any involvement in the crimes committed by his followers.
Aum also said it would change its name to ``Aleph'' -- taken from the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet -- and rid itself of part of its doctrine which has been interpreted as condoning murder if it benefits the cult.
The renamed group's main target of worship will be Buddhist dieties and its followers will no longer take personal orders from Asahara, although he will remain ``a spiritual entity,'' the cult's newly appointed leader Tatsuko Muraoka said in the statement. Muraoka said that the new group would pose no threat to society.
Fumihiro Joyu, the cult's charismatic former spokesman and second highest official after Asahara, said that the cult ``deeply apologises to the victims'' and that reforms were being taken to rid the cult of its sinful past.
The cult, some of whose members have been convicted while others are still on trial on charges related to the subway attack, first apologised last month for the crimes committed by its followers and pledged to pay compensation to the victims.
On Monday, Aum reportedly agreed to hand over its facilities in six locations as well as the over 3.3 million yen ($31,500) it received from a small town in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, for vacating land there as compensation to the victims.
The laws passed by Japan's parliament in December in response to fears it was making a comeback do not specify the cult by name but target the activities of any group that has engaged in ``indiscriminate mass murder'' in the past 10 years. The laws allow police and public security officials to inspect such a group's facilities at any time.
Top government spokesman Mikoo Aoki said the government would continue to closely watch the cult's activities.
``There are sufficient grounds for us to believe that their announcement is simply aimed at evading regulations,'' Aoki told a regular news conference.
The authorities are to question cult members on Thursday before deciding whether to put the group under surveillance. A decision is expected in early February.

"Gov't to keep close watch on AUM cult: Aoki"

(Kyodo News Service, January 18, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan. 18 (Kyodo) - Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Tuesday the government would keep a close watch on the AUM Shinrikyo cult, following an AUM announcement that it will change its name and liquidate its assets.
''We have proper grounds for suspecting their announcement is only aimed at evading legal regulations (being discussed by the government),'' Aoki said.
Aoki also said that procedures for the Public Security Examination Commission to judge whether AUM should be monitored by the government should be kept intact.
The cult finally admitted Tuesday the involvement of its founder and leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, in a series of crimes, including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system which killed 12 people.
It also announced a plan to change its name from AUM to ''Aleph,'' the name of a company affiliated with the cult.
A senior government official said, ''They will not evade the newly enacted anti-AUM law even if they change their name.''

"AUM admits Asahara's involvement in crimes, changes name"

(Kyodo News Service, January 18, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan. 18 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult admitted Tuesday the involvement of its founder and leader Shoko Asahara in a series of crimes including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The cult also unveiled a reform plan which includes the liquidation of the group's assets and changing its name from AUM to ''Aleph,'' the name of a company affiliated with the cult. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
In a press release faxed to news organizations and also posted on the cult's Web site, the group said its senior members ''shared a recognition that the leader Asahara seems to have been implicated'' in the various cases, admitting for the first time the leader's involvement in the past crimes.
Asahara, 44, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for his alleged role in at least 17 major crimes, including masterminding the Tokyo sarin gas attack, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
''We once again offer a sincere apology to victims of those cases and the bereaved families,'' the cult said in the release. The announcement was released one and half months after the group admitted for the first time its culpability and apologized.
According to the reform plan, AUM's acting head Tatsuko Muraoka, 49, will assume the leadership of the group under the new name, and the cult will provide compensation to victims of AUM-related crimes with money earned by such means as sales of its real estate holdings.
The cult also said it will set up a new liaison group to handle compensation cases.
Although the cult has admitted Asahara's involvement in the cases, it still lauded him as a ''genius meditator,'' and indicated it will carry on Asahara's legacy of yoga and meditation techniques and other Buddhist practices.
The cult defined Asahara as a ''spiritual being,'' but clarified that he has no power to give direction to the group members, and said that all cult followers will be instructed to abandon any dogma considered to be dangerous because of possible connection with past felonies.
Victims have rebuffed the reform plan saying it will not completely solve the problem. The Public Security Investigation Agency consider such moves as ways to avoid a crackdown on the cult's activities likely to be imposed by the state through the newly enacted anti-AUM law, agency sources said.
The 3,000-word press release was offered under the names of senior AUM members Fumihiro Joyu, 37, and Muraoka. Joyu, who returned to the cult last month after serving out a three-year jail term for perjury, gave an overview of the past cases, while Muraoka explained the reform plan.
Muraoka said the group will inform Asahara of the cult's policy change if there are any opportunities to do so, and urged him to express his views regarding his own responsibility, as the group's head, in the past cases now that he has admitted in court to the cult's involvement in the crimes.
Sources close to the cult said AUM followers will break up into several groups and find jobs to earn money to be used for compensating victims. They will also look for a place for Asahara's children to live, they said.
AUM was supposed to hold a press conference to explain its ''general view'' on the series of AUM-related crimes and its reform measures, but AUM officials later canceled the press conference, citing security reasons.
Michiko Hishinuma, 55, whose husband was killed in the Tokyo subway gassing, said the group should have answered various questions at a press conference.
''Unless the group denies all the dogmas of Asahara, I don't consider any act of the cult as an apology,'' she said.
Shoko Egawa, a journalist who has been closely monitoring the cult's moves, pointed out that the reform plan was drawn up under the leadership of Joyu, who she claims has told many lies and continues to conceal possible wrongdoing.
''Joyu has shown no repentance. I feel his intention is to protect his status and maintain the faith of the followers, because if faith remains, the group can resume its activities in the future, when people's memory of the crimesfade,'' she said.
''Joyu is double-tongued, so he is not to be trusted,'' Egawa added.

"Japan doomsday cult to sell assets - media"

(Reuters, January 17, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Japanese doomsday cult accused of the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways plans to sell its assets to pay compensation to victims and their families, Japanese media reported on Monday.
The reported sell-off by Aum Shinri Kyo, the Supreme Truth Sect, could be an attempt to avoid becoming a target of government surveillance under new laws that took effect last month, local newspapers said.
The sect will compensate victims of its crimes from sales of its properties, including some registered in the names of individual followers, Kyodo news agency reported, citing unidentified cult sources.
Kyodo also quoted Saburo Abe, the administrator appointed to settle financial claims against the cult, as saying that Aum Shinri Kyo agreed to hand over facilities in six locations.
The cult will also hand over 3.3 million yen ($31,440) it received from a small town in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, for vacating land there, Abe was quoted as saying.
The cult, some of whose members have been convicted while others are still on trial on charges related to the attack that killed 12 and left thousands ill, apologised last month for the crimes and pledged to pay compensation to the victims.
The Japanese parliament in December enacted a set of laws aimed at curbing Aum's activities after fears that the cult was staging a comeback sparked strong public protests.
The laws do not specify the cult by name but target the activities of any group that has engaged in ``indiscriminate mass murder'' in the past 10 years.
The laws allow police and public security officials to inspect such a group's facilities at any time.
The authorities are to question cult members on Thursday before deciding whether to put the group under surveillance.
A decision is expected in early February.
Public protests have intensified since the release from prison of the cult's charismatic former spokesman, Fumihiro Joyu, in late December.
Joyu, 37, is Aum's second highest official after its founder Shoko Asahara, who is currently on trial for allegedly masterminding the 1995 gas attack and 16 other crimes.
Joyu is believed to have been discussing with other senior cult members the future of the cult and ways to dodge government surveillance, including the possibility of disbanding the cult altogether, media reports have said.
Aum has denied the reports, and said it had no plans to disband the group to evade the new law.

"AUM tells administrator it will hand over properties"

(Kyodo News Service, January 17, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan. 17 (Kyodo) - The bankruptcy administrator for AUM Shinrikyo said Monday the cult has agreed to hand over facilities in six locations.
The cult will also hand over a 3.3 million yen settlement it received from the government of the town of Fukiage, Saitama Prefecture, for vacating land there, said the administrator, lawyer Saburo Abe.
Abe said he has already provisionally seized 1.5 million yen of the settlement.
The market value of the facilities to be handed over is not immediately known but the cult claimed it had purchased them at about 171 million yen, he said.
The six locations include the villages of Kawakami and Minami-Aiki and the town of Saku, all in Nagano Prefecture, and Otawara in Tochigi Prefecture, Abe said.
The cult earlier handed over money raised by the sale of an AUM facility in Kisofukushima, Nagano Prefecture.
But Abe said the cult told him it has nothing to do with facilities believed related to it in the towns of Minakuchi and Kosei in Shiga Prefecture as well as in Gifu Prefecture and thus cannot hand them over.
Abe said the money raised from the cult will be used to pay compensation to the victims of AUM-related crimes.
Sources close to the cult said Sunday that AUM is considering selling its properties to compensate victims of its crimes, including the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack, as a step toward disbanding.
However, Justice Ministry and Public Security Investigation Agency sources say they believe the cult is looking for ways to avoid a crackdown under the recently enacted anti-AUM law.

"AUM postpones press conference"

(Kyodo News Service, January 17, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan. 17 (Kyodo) - AUM Shinrikyo said Monday it has postponed a press conference scheduled for the same day to announce the cult's ''general view'' on a series of crimes committed by its members and the group's reform programs.
The announcement, made on its Web site, cited ''various reasons, including one related to the place for the press conference,'' for the postponement.
The cult is considering selling its properties to compensate victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes, according to sources close to the cult.

"Anti-Aum rightists get free, loud ride"

by Takuya Asakura ("South China Morning Post, January 16, 2000")

YOKOHAMA -- Military marching songs and yells blasting out of rightists' black loudspeaker trucks broke the holiday silence here Monday morning, which was Coming-of-Age Day.
Since Fumihiro Joyu, former spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo, moved into the cult's Yokohama branch Dec. 29 after his release from prison, t neighborhood has been thrown into turmoil.
While riot policeman stand at every street corner, rightists drive around blaring loud music and hurling verbal assaults at Joyu and his cohorts almost daily.
Rightwingers in blue uniforms swagger at the intersection where traffic is obstructed by their trucks. The street leading to the apartment complex where Aum is located is barricaded by police.
"We will kick Aum out on our own, without the help of Kanagawa Prefectural Police!" the rightists chant to a crowd of mainly elderly day laborers.
Despite the rightists' relentless cacophony, the police remain passive.
The upheaval in Isezaki-cho -- one of Yokohama's busiest entertainment districts -- has dealt a serious blow to businesses here.
"Our customers are all gone now," said a woman at a take out lunch shop, outside of which stands a phalanx of cops.
She fears her regular customers will be gone by the time t turmoil ends.
The manager of a gas station facing the road where a number of police vehicles are parked said he had to close the station Monday afternoon because traffic was blocked.
He said sales are down 30 percent since the end of last year.
A flower shop owner also suffered a drop in sales of New Year decorations at the end of last year.
Although the losses are not significant, she said she lost some bulk-purchase customers who usually come to the shop by car. According to Toshiyuki Murata, who runs stationary shops in t Isezaki-cho Shopping Center and serves as chairman of the local community association, business losses have been reported at the center, which is also near the cult office.
Shops selling nonessential goods such as jewels, furniture and kimono have been "badly hit," he said.
Representatives from the community visited the Aum office Tuesday to demand that Joyu and his fellow cultists leave.
Many residents and business owners, however, said their immediate concern is the rightists hovering in the area, rather than Aum itself.
"Because we are scared to complain to the rightists, we have no choice but to blame Aum for everything," one local business owner said.
"To tell you the truth, I really don't care if Joyu leaves or not," as long as the community can become peaceful again, another shopkeeper said.
Some said they wonder why police allow the rightists to make a nuisance with their loudspeaker trucks and traffic disruptions.
Police reckon the rightists are cleverly dodging crackdowns by turning the volumes of their loudspeakers down when driving near police devices to measure noise levels.
As for traffic obstructions, police said they bend to the rightists to some extent so they won't demonstrate directly in front of the cult office.
But police have not shown any leniency when it comes to Aum.
Saitama Prefectural Police have repeatedly raided Aum's Yokohama office since Saturday in connection with an al leged forgery of official documents regarding a car parking certificate.
Police also searched six Aum facilities around the country Thursday in connection with the case.
In addition, a new law targeting Aum, but not in name, that took effect Dec. 27 is highly expected to be applied to the cult after the Public Security Examination Commission hears opinions from Aum next week.
The procedure is part of the process to determine whether to invoke the law, which is designed to monitor and control the activities of anygroups that have attempted or carried out indiscriminate mass murder.
Koji Fukagawa, who represents the district where the Aum office is located, and other community leaders said they need to wait and see how t cult changes after the law is applied.
After talking for 40 minutes with Joyu earlier this week, Fukagawa said Aum's former mouthpiece did not leave a bad impression, however, cannot wipe away his anxiety if the cult stays here.
Fukagawa said he hopes to continue talks with the cult to seek a realistic solution.
Until then, "if the media inflame the issue by rumor-mongering, it will create further distrust between the two sides (residents and Aum)," said.

"Doomsday cult guru 'no threat'"

("South China Morning Post, January 16, 2000)

The founder of the doomsday cult that gassed Tokyo's subways no longer has any influence over members, lawyers reportedly said yesterday.
Aum Shinri Kyo guru Shoko Asahara said in 1996 that he planned to yield leadership, the cult's lawyers said.
They made public a report submitted earlier to the Public Security Examination Commission, an independent body that is studying a request to allow the Justice Ministry to monitor the cult, Kyodo News Agency said.
If the commission decides a new law applies to Aum, the cult would have to report on its activities every three months.
Asahara is on trial for masterminding the 1995 sarin subway attack that killed 12 people. He is also accused over the death of several cult members, a lawyer investigating the cult said.

"AUM considering compensation for victims as liquidation step"

(Kyodo News Service, January 16, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult is considering selling its properties and compensating victims of a series of crimes committed by its members over the past years, as a step toward liquidation, sources close to the cult said Sunday.
The cult has presented its administrators with an offer of payment financed by real estate sales, the sources said.

"Asahara no longer leads AUM"

(Kyodo News Service, January 15, 2000)

TOKYO - AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara no longer leads or has influence over the cult, AUM's lawyers said in a report released Friday outlining arguments against making it subject to tough new security laws.
The lawyers made public the report they had submitted earlier to the Public Security Examination Commission, an independent body which is studying a request to allow the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency to monitor the cult.

"Aum will leave when ready, Joyu says"

("Japan Times", January 12, 2000)

YOKOHAMA -- People living near a Yokohama condominium containing an Aum Shinrikyo office demanded Tuesday that former cult spokesman Fumihiro Joyu and other followers immediately leave the area.
The written demand by a town council, shop owners and local residents came after the neighborhood was thrown into turmoil when Joyu, considered the cult's second in command after founder Shoko Asahara, arrived in Yokohama on Dec. 29 after being released from Hiroshima Prison.
Joyu met the residents and said he has no plans to permanently reside at the condominium, adding that the cult will "clarify its position on Jan. 20" over the heinous crimes for which its members have been accused, according to a senior member of the residents' union.
Aum, however, turned down the residents' demand to leave. Later in the day, in a written reply, the cult said that it would be difficult to immediately leave the facility "because (moving to a new place) will only create the same problem."
Since Joyu entered the cult facility, the Naka Ward condominium has been surrounded daily by a mob of onlookers and about 100 reporters attempting to get a glimpse of the high-profile Joyu.

"Cult leader's quarters raided"

(Agence France Presse, January 9, 1999)

TOKYO: Police yesterday raided a branch of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult where its charismatic spokesman is staying after his release from prison last month, a spokesman said.
The apartment in Yokohama, south of the capital, was searched over forged documents that had been submitted to police.
``It's about papers to obtain garage certificates,'' the spokesman said, referring to the documents that entitle car owners to a parking space.
However, local media, including Jiji Press and Japan Broadcasting Corp, said the real purpose of the raid was to monitor the sect's movements after the return of Fumihiro Joyu on 29 December.
The 37-year-old, Aum's second-in-command after its founder Shoko Asahara, fiercely defended the cult after its members sprayed a deadly nerve gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995.
Mr Joyu was not directly linked with the attack that killed 12 and injured thousands, because he was in Russia at the time. However, he served a three-year sentence for forgery.
``The latest search is believed to reflect the intention of police and public security authorities to keep a grip on the movement of the sect, which is to be led by Joyu after his return,'' Jiji said.
Mr Joyu has not left the apartment in the 10 days since his release, and other prominent members have been seen to visit the returned leader.
As well, about a dozen neighbours have visited the Yokohama branch to urge the cult to leave the building.

"Police raid AUM facilities"

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 9, 2000)

For the first time since the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult's top-ranking leader, Fumihiro Joyu, was released from prison in late December, police raided AUM facilities in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture and Yokohama on Saturday morning.
The Saitama Prefectural Police conducted the probes on suspicion that a cult member filed false documentation to police last year to obtain a garage certificate, police said.
According to investigators, the member allegedly used the name of the Koshigaya facility owner without his permission in an application to obtain a police certificate for the registration of a facility.
As the car that had been registered to the garage frequented the Yokohama branch of the cult, investigators raided the branch along with the Koshigaya facility over the allegation.
However, the raid on the group's Yokohama branch, where Joyu reportedly lives, meant more than just an alleged false documentation investigation, investigative sources indicate.
Police believe that Joyu has ultimate controlling influence on the cult's activities. He is believed to be ranked higher than AUM's acting representative, Tatsuko Muraoka, or any other executive member in the cult's religious order even after his allegedly mock declaration not to be an active member for the moment.
He made the declaration a day after his release from Hiroshima prison. The raid at the Yokohama branch was partly investigators' attempt to uncover information about what Joyu's intentions are.
In a related development, people representing the residents of the condominium where the cult's Yokohama branch is located, visited the branch to meet Joyu and hand him a letter demanding he and the cult leave the condominium. Members of the cult told them that they could not accept the letter because police are making raids against them.
The condominium group as well as the local residents declared their intention in the letter to file a damage suit against the branch over noise pollution that has been caused by the rightist-extremist group's sound trucks since the return of Joyu.
The cult denied them access to its representatives because of the police presence on the compound, but the residents' group said that it was determined to come back again later to hand over the protest.

"Japanese Police Raid Two Facilities Of Doomsday Cult"

(Associated Press, January 8, 2000)

TOKYO (AP)--Japanese police raided Saturday two facilities of the doomsday cult whose leaders are accused of murder in the 1995 gassing on Tokyo subways.
The raids in Tokyo's suburbs were carried out on suspicion that a member of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult submitted a false document to use a garage, police said. There were no arrests Saturday, but 550 items were seized, they said.
The cult guru, Shoko Asahara, and other leaders are on trial or have been convicted of murder in the subway gas attack, which killed 12 people and sickened thousands.
Police have recently stepped up their crackdown on Aum. Two cult members were arrested in September on charges of confining a female member.
Aum, which continues to be active and recruit new members, is believed to have more than 2,000 followers throughout the country.
Last month, Fumihiro Joyu, the cult's former spokesman and one of its top leaders, was released from prison, heightening fears about a possible Aum resurgence.
Japan passed laws last year to make it easier for police to monitor Aum and inspect its facilities. The latest raid was not carried out under the new laws.
Residents around Aum offices throughout Japan have risen up, demanding that the cult leave.

"Police search Aum cult's branch after return of top member"

(Agence France Presse, January 8, 2000)

TOKYO, Jan 8 (AFP) - Police on Saturday raided a branch of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult where its charismatic spokesman is staying after his release from prison last month, a spokesman said.
The apartment in Yokohama, south of the capital, was searched in connection with forged documents that had been submitted to police, the police spokesman said.
"It's about papers to obtain garage certificates," he said, referring to the documents that entitle car-owners to a parking space.
But local media, including Jiji Press and Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), said the real purpose of the raid was to monitor the sect's movements after the return of Fumihiro Joyu on December 29.
The 37-year-old, Aum's second-in-command after its founder Shoko Asahara, fiercely defended the cult after its members sprayed a deadly nerve gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995.
Joyu was not directly linked with the attack that killed 12 and injured thousands, because he was in Russia at the time. However, he served a three-year sentence for forgery.
"The latest search is believed to reflect the intention of police and pubic security authorities to grasp the movement of the sect, which is to be led by Joyu after his return," Jiji said.
The police spokesman declined to comment on the media speculation.
Joyu has not left the apartment in the 10 days since his release, and other prominent members have been seen entering the building to visit the returned leader, Jiji and other reports said.
Meanwhile about a dozen neighbours visited the Yokohama branch as the police search was going on, urging the cult to leave the building, they said.
Japanese police have sought permission to put the Aum Supreme Truth cult under surveillance as part of a new law cracking down on the sect which took effect two day before Joyu's release.
The Aum cult escaped being outlawed under legislation banning "subversive activities" in January 1997 when a legal panel ruled it no longer posed a threat to society.
But it is feared the sect has improved its finances through a computer sales business and it is recruiting more followers to add to its claimed 1,500-strong membership.
In November last year, Aum admitted for the first time that some of its members were involved in the Tokyo subway gassing. Its guru Asahara is still on trial for murder at the Tokyo District Court.

"Police raid 2 AUM facilities over falsified application"

(Kyodo News Service, January 8, 2000)

YOKOHAMA, Jan. 8 (Kyodo) - Police raided an AUM Shinrikyo facility in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, and the cult's branch in Yokohama on Saturday on suspicion that a member of the religious group submitted a false document to police last year to obtain a garage certificate.
The AUM member entered a false name and address on an application form to obtain the certificate for use of a garage in the Koshigaya facility as a registered parking space for automobiles, police said.
Meanwhile, the raid on the Yokohama branch resulted in the postponement of a planned protest by local residents against AUM and its No. 2 leader, Fumihiro Joyu, who has been staying at the branch since his release from prison Dec. 29.
Joyu arrived at the branch, located on the second floor of a condominium in downtown Yokohama, after serving time in Hiroshima Prison as part of a three-year sentence for perjury.
A group of condominium residents, neighbors and local business proprietors planned to meet AUM members at the branch and hand them a letter demanding them to leave and make compensation for damage incurred since Joyu's arrival, including noise.
Representatives of the residents' group visited the branch but could not meet the sect representatives because the police were there.
The residents' group will try again later to hand in the protest, they said.
Since Joyu came, the condominium has been constantly surrounded by around 100 people, including reporters and onlookers. Rightist extremist groups have also send sound trucks to the area, blaring out slogans such as, ''Get out, Joyu.''
Joyu is believed to be second-in-command to AUM founder Shoko Asahara, who is on trial for a number of counts his alleged role in 17 criminal cases, including the Tokyo subway gas attack in 1995, which left 12 people dead and injured thousands.

"AUM tries worming out of compensation"

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 8, 2000)

Aum Shinrikyo tried to outwit its receivers by telling them it would use money from the sale of land it owned to compensate victims of its terrorist acts, but then actually attempted to siphon the money away, sources said Friday.
Saburo Abe, the doomsday cult's receiver, said he cottoned on to what AUM was trying to do and took out a court order late last year that prevented the cult from getting its hands on money that most would prefer was diverted to its victims.
"I had no other option but to doubt the integrity of the cult when it promised to use the funds to compensate its victims," Abe said.
On Dec. 16, the cult contacted Abe and said it wanted to sell some of the land it owned and use the proceeds of the sale to compensate victims of crimes like the 1995 lethal nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 and injured thousands. Receivers ordered AUM members to take the appropriate steps to sell cult-owned land to local governments in Fukiage, Saitama Prefecture, and the Nagano Prefecture municipalities of Kisofukushima and Minami-Aiki. AUM members later handed over to the receivers 5 million yen from the sale of the Kisofukushima lot. The receivers on Dec. 21 declared these funds to be available to compensate the victims of AUM crimes.
However, on either Dec. 22 or Dec. 23, an AUM member contacted the Kisofukushima Municipal Government and pressured officials to pay some 1. 5 million yen owed to AUM for rent on facilities on the cult's land.
AUM's receivers decided that the call meant the cult was trying to get its hands on more money and did not intend to use the funds to pay back its victims.

"Yokohama ready to deny AUM's Joyu residency"

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 6, 2000)

YOKOHAMA - The Yokohama Municipal Government on Wednesday decided not to accept a notification of intent to move to the city expected to be filed by Fumihiro Joyu, an executive member of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult.
Joyu, 37, who was recently released from a Hiroshima prison, has lived in a cult facility in the city's Naka-ku since Dec. 29.
Critics say such a rejection of residency by local governments would infringe on his freedom to choose and change residency, protected in Article No. 22 of the Constitution.
Yet Yokohama City officials justify their planned rejection, citing a condition stipulated in the same article that people are free to reside in any location unless "it does not interfere with public welfare."
"[Joyu] is a symbolic figure for (AUM) followers, and we can never accept him" in Yokohama, said an unidentified municipal official.
"Unless he completely leaves AUM, or the cult fulfills its social responsibility - such as paying enough damages to the victims of a series of cult-related incidents - there would be no local-governing bodies that would accept their followers (as residents)," another municipal official was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the Public Security Examination Commission on Wednesday announced that it would summon AUM members to a hearing on Jan. 20 to decide whether to invoke the recently enacted anti-AUM law to restrict the cult's activities.
The commission plans to question them in the Justice Ministry compound in Tokyo.

Tax agency to probe Aum computer firms"

("Japan Times", January 6, 2000)

URAWA, Saitama Pref. -- Police alerted tax authorities Thursday that two Tokyo-based personal computer industry firms allegedly linked to the Aum Shinrikyo cult are suspected of hiding income, investigation sources said Thursday.
The National Tax Administration Agency is planning to launch a full-scale investigation and interrogate Aum members in the near future. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, additional taxes may be imposed on the cult, which authorities believe effectively runs the firms, the sources said.
The latest move by the Saitama Prefectural Police is part of efforts to unearth the scope and extent of the cult's activities and finances.
Police and tax authorities hope the probe will help expose the hidden flow of money to the cult, the sources said.
The two shops -- PC retailer Poseidon, in Chiyoda Ward, and computer wholesaler SBR, in Taito Ward -- have been examined by the tax agency in the past. They have since shut down and been effectively dormant since last summer.
A shop manager for Poseidon was arrested last July by Saitama police on suspicion that he falsified his address in filing to register a different PC-related company.
Saitama police have also searched Poseidon's PC plants in the prefecture and more than 20 Aum-related facilities in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and other prefectures, including SBR offices, the sources said.
They have also searched Aum-related offices in Tokyo's Adachi Ward on suspicion that the cult destroyed evidence linked to its alleged PC businesses.


"Police urge tax bureau to impose penalty on AUM firms"

(Kyodo News Service, January 6, 2000)

URAWA, Japan, Jan. 6 (Kyodo) - Saitama prefectural police urged tax authorities Thursday to impose penalty taxes on two computer firms linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult, alleging that they failed to declare income from sales of computers and computer parts, police said. The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau will launch a probe into the allegations and question AUM members, bureau officials said. The firms, effectively run by the cult, are Poseidon, a retailer of personal computers in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, and SBR, a computer wholesaler based in Tokyo's Taito Ward, police said. Both companies suspended operations following an inspection by tax authorities in June last year, police said.
On July 2 last year, Saitama police arrested the manager of a personal computer shop run by Poseidon on suspicion of falsifying documents when registering another personal computer-related company.
The arrest came after police searched more than 20 locations related to the cult in five prefectures including Saitama and Tokyo. Among the locations were SBR and a computer assembly factory in Saitama Prefecture.
Police also searched an office linked to the cult in Tokyo's Adachi Ward on suspicion the cult destroyed evidence as a group.
Police confiscated a total of 5,000 items, including personal computers, floppy disks, payment slips and books during the two series of searches.
Meanwhile, Yokohama Mayor Hidenobu Takahide said Thursday he wants AUM's No. 2 leader Fumihiro Joyu to leave the city as soon as possible, saying his presence is a concern to local residents.
Joyu has been staying at AUM's branch in Yokohama since being released from Hiroshima Prison on Dec. 29.
Takahide said the city expects ''trouble'' if Joyu remains in the city for a long time.
The mayor said he does not know whether Joyu wishes to live in the city but that the municipal government would deal with a residency application from him ''carefully.''


"Return of the 'Face'"

("Wai Wai - Mainichi Shimbun", January 3, 2000)

We've seen this Face before, the last time in Oct. 1995 when he was arrested for perjury. An unlikelier celebrity would have been hard to find. Top spokesman for a cult whose atrocities were then fresh in everybody's mind, Fumihiro Joyu nonetheless had an undeniable mass following. The networks knew it, and weren't above exploiting "the AUM effect." A Joyu appearance on a TV talk show could be counted on to send ratings soaring.
Four years in Hiroshima's Marunouchi Prison seem to have weathered him. Now 37, he no longer looks like a kid. The world itself has aged since Joyu last saw it as a free man. He may find it a less congenial place than he once did. Though he has announced his intention to return to AUM Shinrikyo, and though police are poised against his revivifying influence, there are doubts as to the welcome he will receive from the harassed faithful.
"I wish he wasn't getting out," a believer confesses to Aera (12/27-1/3). AUM is under increasing pressure. Public revulsion, heightened by signs of imminent revival, squeezed a first-ever apology out of AUM in November and goaded legislators into passing a law authorizing tightened police surveillance of the cult. The law went into effect two days before Joyu's Dec. 29 release. An image make-over is in the works. The old AUM consisted of individuals so deep into their spiritual exercises that trivial earthly concerns like life, death and murder were beneath their notice. The new AUM acknowledges its past excesses and promises to be good from now on. Joyu, Aera speculates, may be too irredeemably associated with the old order to be anything but a distraction in the new.
Perhaps so, says Sapio (1/12), but don't count him out yet. His spiritual standing within AUM assures him a voice. He is a leader among leaders, a seitaishi, outranked only by guru Shoko Asahara (Chizuo Matsumoto) himself. Among Joyu's very few equals are the likes of Asahara's wife and mistress.
Keep your eye on the mistress, warns Aera. Her name is Hisako Ishii, and she's due out of prison (she was jailed for illegally disposing of a corpse) in spring. Among her other distinctions, she is the mother of an Asahara child. Her return to AUM will be more significant than Joyu's, Aera predicts.
Joyu's first day of freedom was an uncomfortable one. Flying from Hiroshima to Tokyo, he was unable to find a hotel willing to accommodate him. He was forced to seek shelter at an AUM facility in Yokohama.
(Michael Hoffman, contributing writer)  Quick Jumps


"Rightist breaks into AUM facility"

("Mainichi Shimbun", January 1, 2000)

YOKOHAMA - One day after AUM Shinrikyo executive member Fumihiro Joyu was released from prison and arrived at the cult's Yokohama branch, a rightist broke into the facility demanding that Joyu leave but was soon arrested, police said.
Osamu Kasahara, 34, from Yokohama's Minami-ku, entered into the AUM Yokohama office on the second floor of a condominium building in Naka-ku from the veranda at 7:20 p.m. on Thursday.
Police officers watching the AUM facility around the condominium immediately arrested Kasahara. "I just wanted to tell Joyu to get out (of the office)," he said.
Joyu and other members of the cult were not injured in the incident.
Since Joyu arrived at the Yokohama branch on Wednesday, vehicles of right-wing groups were reportedly conducting a street demonstration near the Yokohama branch.

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