Aum Shinri-kyon:Alternative Views

"The "De-nationalization" of AUM Followers: Its Hidden Political Purpose"

("Tsukuru", November 1999) 

by Masaaki Fukuda (Professor of Law, Hitotsubashi University)


Has a Basic Human Right Disappeared?

Recently I have had moments in which I have been overcome with an indescribable sense of unreality and horror. My anguish arises from one question: "In what age and in what society am I living now?"
Am I really living in one of the richest and happiest societies in the world, where the Constitution is respected and the ruin of the war was turned into the triumph of modernity by dint of our national effort? Am I really living there?
Where have our freedom, democracy, and respect for the dignity of the individual gone ideas I believed were the political backbone of Japanese society? I was brought up as a young child being told, "You must not be a bully and abuse others just because they look and think differently; you must get along with others, and respectfully listen to their opinions."
But it seems to me that the very opposite idea is prevailing in every quarter of present-day Japanese society. Our society compels us to be restrained and obedient, under threat of violence, financial hardship, and exclusion if we fail to comply. We have no real freedom or democracy. As I will discuss in detail later, we have only to look at the absurd laws enacted by the 145th Diet the same Diet that is generally regarded as the protector of freedom of speech and the resulting increase in abusive and corrupt police power. The "de-nationalization of AUM followers" which we are presently witnessing all over Japan is the clearest example of this.

De-nationalization of AUM Followers

The "de-nationalization of AUM followers" started at the beginning of this year [1999], developing into something of a phenomenon by the spring. It eventually become a national movement, involving actions by all three branches of government legislative, administrative and judicial in addition to local administrators and residents stirred up by lurid press reports. AUM followers are currently experiencing the following difficulties:

1. Their residence registrations have been denied and they cannot obtain driver's licenses, garage licenses or national health insurance cards. Deprived of their social security, they can neither notarize documents at local government offices nor obtain passports. They have even been refused the right to vote.

2. AUM children have been denied the right to go attend school.

3. Local governments have blocked roads to the followers' property. Landlords have been pressured to cancel their rent contracts with them and the disposal of trash and sewage from followers' residences has been stopped.

4. AUM followers cannot use public facilities.

5. Even the supply of necessities such as water, gas, and telephone service has been cut off in some places.

Six AUM followers have been unreasonably arrested for petty offenses.
Numerous police raids and confiscations followed, through which their privacy was violated. At the same time, they have been subjected to daily surveillance by the police.
Japanese TV reporters have exclaimed, "We will investigate the hideouts of AUM followers for the public welfare!" and newscasters like Yuko Ando and Taro Kimura as well as critical AUM watchers including some lawyers have spread dubious stories about AUM. They profess themselves "humanitarian spokesmen for the victims" and advocate that the organization be disbanded. But the ramifications of the current oppression of AUM followers by governmental authorities is far greater than the harassments by mass media vigilantes.

"De-nationalization of AUM Followers"

To our horror, the national movement for "de-nationalization of AUM followers" taking place now is similar to the Japanese national system in the pre-war period, when Japan fell into militarism. The similarity lies in the point that the centralization of national power creates dissidents, whose existence theoretically violates the legal basis of Japanese society. This provides an excuse to mobilize the entire nation, under the pretext of excluding these dissidents. Before the war, the protection of the national system was used as the primary legal basis for the Pacific War. This time, the "assurance of citizens' lives and a quiet social life" is being used as the justification; and the safeguarding of our system for preserving the peace is used to rationalize amendments to the Constitution and rearmament.
Needless to say, there are some differences between the pre-war period and the present. Nevertheless, we need to analyze and investigate more calmly the fact that the de-nationalization of AUM followers is being planned and implemented by the national government; and that the AUM followers are being used as a scapegoat to avoid the friction inevitable in the transition to a new social and cultural structure following the collapse of the bubble economy.

Does Justice Still Exist In Our Nation?

Legally speaking, the de-nationalization of AUM followers is the complete deprivation of their basic human rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. The followers are deprived of the freedom of religion, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and the freedom to work. Moreover, the right to vote, the right to go to school, the right to work, the right to privacy, and legal rights in relations with the police have all been removed. On the whole, their basic human rights as Japanese citizens (the right of being respected as individual and the right of pursuing life, freedom and happiness) have been ignored.
What is essential to ask is where the legal basis is on which AUM followers can be deprived of these rights, and whether the facts actually confirm this legal basis. (The social rationale of de-nationalization is that "AUM Shinrikyo is a dangerous and brutal murderous group" and "AUM Shinrikyo is a group which causes troubles and violates the people's quiet life.")
AUM followers are human beings and Japanese citizens, just as we are.
If they are legally and factually deprived of their basic human rights without any justification, this does not only affect the "hateful AUM Shinrikyo which, having committed mass murder, does not even apologize," but it is also likely to affect the rest of us, which is potentially a very dangerous violation of human rights and in itself a most brutal crime. While we are manipulated by the contrived social order, the entire Japanese nation may in turn become the "second AUM Shinrikyo."

Below I will discuss the following points in as much detail as possible in a limited space.

1) How the national government de-nationalizes AUM followers

2) The basic principles of justice

3) The relationship between de-nationalization and the achievement of national purpose

4) The overheated quality of the current de-nationalization movement and the "anti-AUM law" which is intended to put an end to AUM

5) The investigation of the "de-nationalization of AUM followers" by the Public Security Investigation Agency

Even after the Public Security Investigation Commission rejected the application of the Anti-subversive Activities Law in January 1997, the Public Security Investigation Agency did not change their viewpoint that "the AUM Shinrikyo organization has the potential to commit more violent, destructive acts in the future." The Agency published an investigation report repeatedly stating that Aum is planning to revive their organization in personal and material ways, making surveillance necessary. Last February, the Agency stressed, "They have made a profit of more than seven billion yen through the sale of personal computers, establishing 17 centers in the course of last year.
They are also concentrating on recruiting university and high school students as well as spreading their doctrine overseas. Strict surveillance is necessary in the future."
Regarded objectively, however, this investigative report is rather curious.
If a private religious group legally exerts all its efforts for the benefit of monks, nuns and its own organization, why is that grounds for the necessity of "strict surveillance"? The Agency does not report that some crime or compulsory act was committed for obtaining money and expanding the organization. What AUM Shinrikyo is doing is also done in other religious organizations.
This investigative report is meaningful only when it is acknowledged that, at the time, the Agency relied on the provisions of the Anti-subversive Activities Law that is, "AUM Shinrikyo is a dangerous organization which is made up of followers who believe in the doctrine of indiscriminate murder and carry it out in order to build up an Asahara despotic state." However, as I mention later, there is no question that this insistence was, and is, inaccurate.
I cannot but think that the reason that the Agency still insists on the necessity of "strict surveillance" lies in their aim to intentionally stir up and maintain the dangerous reputation of AUM Shinrikyo at a high pitch among the Japanese people, assuming correctly that the media will spread this view in an exaggerated way without investigating the real nature of AUM Shinrikyo's organization. The Public Security Investigation Agency cannot survive as an agency unless they establish the anti-AUM law or amend the Anti-subversive Activities Law.

The Investigation of the "De-nationalization of AUM followers" by the Police and Prosecution

One example demonstrating how the police consider AUM followers "non-human" and perform illegal investigations is seen in the movie entitled "A." In it a policeman questions an AUM follower, throwing him to the ground. But at the same time, the policeman also falls down intentionally, crying "Ouch, that hurts." The innocent follower was then made out to be a criminal by the policeman and his colleagues, charging interference in public duty.
This was recorded on the sound track of the movie. The Tokyo District Court acknowledged the criminal act of the police on the basis of the video picture, ordering the police to pay damages of 1,170,000 yen. Nevertheless, the police not only took the AUM follower into the custody for days, but even filed an appeal in superior court. The police neither indicted the policeman concerned, nor reprimanded him.
On the contrary, the police arrested the same follower the day before the trial for damages cited above. At that time, the police made use of the fact that the follower simply handed over a fictitious business card to the person to whom he was introduced, calling it the forgery of a private sealed document, which is ordinarily not a crime at all. Though the police again took the follower into custody for several days, they could not charge him.
But a newspaper published the police information and reported the arrest of the follower sensationally, as if he was a brutal criminal.
After evacuating their facilities at Kamikuishiki, AUM followers necessarily had to look for other places to live, since they had been driven away from all their former places of residence. It was understandable that the addresses where they lived for the time being were different from their previously registered addresses. But the police regarded this as criminal and arrested many followers, raiding many facilities. If a disparity in an address was found in Chiba, for example, facilities all across Japan were raided and every floppy disc and personal computer was confiscated. Though the followers were only looking for a place to live, these incidents were reported as if they were some sort of machination by AUM for atrocious criminal activity or the expansion of secret hideouts. The notion that the AUM Shinrikyo organization was dangerous was clearly communicated to the people watching the report in their living rooms.
One typical example was the unreasonable arrests and raids conducted in May and June for what was termed residential trespassing. It was carried out on a national scale for the purpose of arresting AUM followers who were distributing leaflets. The followers were only distributing building leaflets to each apartment in which their message was printed. This is a common practice; everyone does it, even pizza shops. But charges of trespassing were filed on instructions from the police, and at times the police even wrote up the charges themselves. The mass media reported the AUM followers' crime of trespassing repeatedly, day and night, like surging waves, along with sensationalized accounts of AUM problems with local residents. The fact that the AUM Shinrikyo organization was dangerous was etched into the minds of the public as firmly as if the AUM followers had broken into apartments and released sarin gas.
In this way, the police made AUM followers out to be criminals, criminalizing their daily lives which were never criminal in the ordinary sense, and stirring up fears of the danger of systematic crimes from AUM Shinrikyo. This may be hard to discern, but the true reason for this was to reinforce the system for preserving the peace in the Heisei period as also seen in the wiretapping law, the anti-organized crime law, the "concealment system of police witness" and the "N-system" (automobile surveillance system) making use of this golden occasion (AUM-bashing on a national scale during the 145th Diet). If we recognize this connection, then every mystery about the situation can be solved.

The Investigation of "De-nationalization" by the Court

The majority of AUM cases were petty offenses which would never have been indicted in the normal way. There were cases where the police criminalized daily activities which would not have been considered criminal, and then issued indictments. Even in these cases, the court judged the followers to be guilty without investigating the facts, depending only on the prosecution's statement.
At the same time, the court issued orders for probation under the condition that the followers would sign a statement that they would resign from the organization. It was a very elaborate tactic. The extraordinarily illegal investigation and illegal indictment of AUM cases was approved by the court without ever being investigated. It can be said that this approval of the power to preserve the peace by the court allowed the aforesaid arrests and raids for petty offenses, along with the warrants which enabled the police to conduct them.
Talking of the case of the Yamashina Heights Apartment in Kyoto, the Kyoto High Court and Osaka High Court ordered the followers who were living there to evacuate their quarters last year, saying, "As the organization and the persons concerned caused serious social anxiety because of incidents like the Subway Sarin Case, it cannot be helped that residents of the apartment building would feel unbearable anxiety. The use of apartments as a religious facility of the organization violates the residents' quiet life beyond the limit of their patience."
The followers had already agreed to have a video camera for surveillance installed in front of their doors. They also agreed to the inspection and the filming of their rooms several times a week. The main point of the trial, therefore, lay not in whether the apartment was used as a religious facility, but in the fact that as long as the followers remained affiliated with AUM Shinrikyo, their presence itself violated the quiet life of residents. Such a High Court trial, which insisted that "as long as you are AUM followers, you have no freedom of residence and movement," was a precedent for the recent troubles concerning the administration's refusal of followers' registration.
Moreover, the court has obstructed the defense activity of the accused AUM leader seriously, collaborating with the prosecution to have the lawyer Yoshihiro Yasuda arrested for a petty matter. Yasuda, that noble personality who organized the defense of Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara), was also the leader of the movement against the death penalty. But he was taken into custody for more than ten months. He had been trying to establish the facts strictly on the basis of evidence and his existence had been perhaps too big of a threat for the court and the prosecution whose aim was to advance the suit. Even Yasuda was made out to be an "immoral, criminal lawyer," because he tried to protect the human rights of AUM followers. The public's fears were great enough to override those who had been trying to stop the limitless human rights violation of AUM followers.

The Investigation of the "De-nationalization of AUM Followers" by Local Governments

In January of this year, local residents evicted the AUM followers from the followers' own residence and occupied it, in Kitamimaki in Nagano Prefecture. After this riot, the administration of many municipalities, such as Takane in Yamanashi Prefecture, Sanwa in Ibaragi Prefecture, and Otawara City in Tochigi Prefecture, refused to accept the notification of followers' residence registration. In Tokyo, the administration of Adachi, Toshima, Arakawa, and Nerima Wards also announced a policy of refusal.
It is openly admitted that the local administration excluded the AUM followers, cooperating with the residents. As I described at the beginning of this paper, at this point the violation of the AUM followers' human rights has reached its low point, though there are differences in degree depending on the community. It is not an exaggeration to say that the AUM followers have been deprived of the basic civil and social rights which are essential to life in Japanese society.
The local governments stand at the forefront of the exclusion movement as if they were playing the role of mayors or councils "who are strong enough to protect citizens from the devil," insisting that "we know too well that our measures are illegal (unconstitutional)" and "the public welfare of citizens' peaceful life has priority over everything" and "we know that we are pushing the problem off onto others." The chief of the Education Board of Tochigi Prefecture even denied the constitutional right of children to receive an education. He said, "We should deal with this problem with ideas that are different from the Constitution. Should we settle this problem only by following the law bureaucratically?"
This ostracism of AUM followers by the local administrations may be authorized by the central government. In fact, the Minister of Home Affairs approved of the unconstitutional act of the local administration, saying, "They made an administrative decision to refuse, knowing that it was illegal.
It was probably decided after an extremely bitter controversy."
There are no facts to support the contention that the AUM Shinrikyo organization wanted and caused the "AUM problems" and "troubles" which are seen in many places. On the contrary, they have always longed for dialogue, opening their facilities to make such contact easier. All the ministrators who authorized and stirred up the residents, though the administration has a basic constitutional duty to step in and stop these difficulties instead of inciting them.

AUM Shinrikyo is Not a Dangerous, Murderous Group

The human rights violation of the AUM Shinrikyo organization's members mentioned above (de-nationalization) is being justified by the general principle that "the citizens' lives and bodies and their quiet life must be protected from the AUM Shinrikyo organization." Its premise is, after all, the recognition that the AUM Shinrikyo organization and its followers are a criminal group which committed indiscriminate mass murder such a the Subway Sarin Case. Since they believe in the same doctrine as before, there is a danger that they will commit a similar crime again. But only a little investigation would clarify the fact that there is no such danger in the present AUM Shinrikyo organization.
First, the Public Security Investigation Commission concluded that "there is no fear that the AUM Shinrikyo organization will commit violent, destructive activities again," even given the stormy AUM-bashing of mass media and public opinion.
Second, the AUM Shinrikyo organization cannot be said to be a criminal group, given its membership. Using the strong tide of public opinion against the Subway Sarin Case, the police who could not prevent the attack in advance forcibly conducted a "ruthless, extraordinary investigation" which was exceptional in the history of criminal investigations during the post-war period; they acted as if doing so was the recovery of their lost honor. The police arrested nearly 400 AUM followers in total, taking them into custody for as long as 120 days on average and investigating them. Mobilizing every possible criminal legal code and interpreting these laws as liberally as possible, they tried to criminalize many petty offenses on an unprecedented scale, including offenses which could not be a crime. Ultimately the police were able to indict fewer than half of those arrested.
As a result, the crimes said to be caused by AUM followers were investigated in the most detailed way; the present followers who remain in the organization are not concerned with AUM cases, much less with crime in general.
Third, there is no physical and objective danger that the present AUM Shinrikyo organization would commit massive, indiscriminate or brutal crimes. The Public Security Investigation Agency does not even mention it.
There is no possibility that the followers could produce, acquire or conceal poisons like sarin or any other weapon for that matter. Nor is there even the minutest evidence that they associate with a domestic or foreign army, or some dangerous terrorist group.
Fourth, the insistence of the Agency that, because AUM followers still devote themselves absolutely to their founder Asahara who spread the doctrine of mass murder and actually carried it, therefore they are dangerous.
There is no scholar of religious studies who would assert that AUM Shirnikyo teaches that their organization should cause violent revolution in order to save and improve the world. The doctrine of Tantra/vajrayana (a form of Buddhism) which is supposed to be the basis for violent revolution was strictly and carefully investigated. I have never heard that there were followers in the present organization who joined in it, believing the doctrine of Tantra/vajrayana and devoting themselves to it and trying to put it into practice. Actually, during the investigation of the Anti-subversive Activities Law, every follower presented an oath in their own handwriting affirming that they would not commit a crime and that if they violated this oath seriously, they would be forced to leave the organization.
Fifth, as to whether Asahara was the ringleader of a massive murder or not (he denied it himself), it will be judged very strictly during his trial. Even if it is established as fact in the future, the founder clearly declared during the investigation procedures of the Anti-subversive Activities Law that "he would never order a criminal act." If his followers commit some criminal act contrary to this, it means that founder Asahara is not absolute leader. In addition, Asahara is completely cut off from contact with the outside world except for the lawyers in charge. It is ridiculous to imagine something happening on the basis of his orders because he has no way to transmit orders to his followers.
Sixth, the organization AUM Shinrikyo was deprived of corporate status and its properties confiscated by persons in charge of the bankruptcy. Both the managerial members and the organization were reconstructed from the ground up. There is no evidence showing that the current organization regards brutal crime as its organizing principal. On the contrary, they have been repeatedly expressing the exact opposite, and in fact they have never been accused since the original series of AUM cases apart from the cases that were incorrectly filed since their reorganization because of the move, acquisition of residence and their declaration of belief. The present organization is completely cut off from Asahara who is absolutely quarantined. And even if there were continuity in his guidance as the organization's founder and spiritual guide, that in itself would not be a crime.
All the persons who are supposedly the criminals are being investigated excessively and accused extraordinarily severely in the trials. At the very least, there is no legal ground to reproach the present organization as a dangerous criminal group from the viewpoint of criminal law and the Anti-subversive Activities Law. There is no possibility of showing it to be dangerous from the viewpoint of its membership, organization, doctrine and actuality.

There Is No Reason for the De-nationalization of AUM Shinrikyo

AUM Shinrikyo is not a group to which the Anti-subversive Activities Law should be applied. Including the accused leader, Chizuo Matsumoto, no followers were indicted for group crimes involving general followers, such as the crime of insurrection or the crime of accumulating and concealing weapons. The present AUM followers committed no aggressive criminal acts. Nor do they cause trouble themselves. The monks and nuns long only for a quiet religious life, practicing together the teachings of the Buddha.
Why should they be de-nationalized, regarded as the "members of a brutal, dangerous criminal group" and deprived of every constitutional human right?
Why should this be allowed? The situation is the same as if the mayor, the deputy or the chairman of the council of a village were indicted, and then the whole village and its residents regarded as "members of a criminal group" and persecuted. There is no reason for the de-nationalization of AUM Shinrikyo as a "dangerous criminal group" at all.
On the other hand, we frequently hear accusations about the organization's social and ethical responsibility, that is, "the AUM Shinrikyo organization has no right to exist in civil society. Having caused such terrible events, they never repented, apologized or compensated the victims, and are only making an effort to accumulate property. We don't have to listen to their opinion."
But how about replacing the foregoing expression "in civil society" by "in international society"? Then it suddenly becomes a matter of us Japanese and Japanese society. Japan has never formally repented and apologized as a state for the atrocious acts that the cultic Great Japanese Empire committed in the pre-war period in Asian countries. Though the Japanese made efforts to accumulate property and became one of the richest nations in the world, its government has been refusing to compensate the victims.
Even disregarding this fact, how can we unilaterally blame the organization AUM Shinrikyo? If we say that the organization is ugly, it is our own face that we see. In addition, the crime of Asahara is still being investigated in the court and even the facts concerning the crime have not yet been firmly established. The followers themselves want to ask the truth of him immediately so as to establish responsibility and decide their next step, "Was it true?", "Why do you...", "How is it related to the doctrine?" But they cannot actually do so.
Even if the facts were established, some of the followers may not be able to detach themselves from their religious founder. But it is the same with children who cannot forget the tenderness of their mothers, even if the mothers commit a brutal crime. In pursuing social and ethical responsibility, there should be order. Regulation by violence, imposition and illegal acts destroys the rule of law and regresses Japanese society to the dark age of rule by force. Furthermore, the refusal of education to the children who have no responsibility knowing full well that it is unconstitutional is out of the question.

AUM Shinrikyo is a Pretext for Amending the Constitution and for Re-militarization

In this way, there is no redeeming reason for de-nationalizing the AUM Shinrikyo organization. As we have discussed above, the de-nationalization of AUM followers was created by central and local governments. As mentioned above, the true political purpose for it lies in paving the way for a change of the system to a new social, cultural structure following the demise of the bubble economy. The AUM Shinrikyo organization and its followers are being used as a pretext for this change, which the ruling parties forcibly established in the 145th general Diet, ignoring proper investigation.
In order to maintain and develop the economic and political advantages built up during the post-war period, the ruling parties invested tax monies of as much as 600 trillion yen, making use of the rigid solidarity of politics, industry and bureaucracy, and realized a long-held goal of policy change.
Through establishing a new law allowing the government to dispatch the Self-Defense Force (Japanese military) to foreign countries; imposing a national flag and national anthem; and preparing to amend the Constitution for the worse, Japan will be able to participate in the international politics and economy of the post-cold war period that are centered around the U.N. Security Council.
It is not too much to say that Japan has finally started the procedure to become a permanent member of the U.N.Security Council, rearming (PKF) and amending the Constitution with a view to obtaining the appropriate profit in the international world. But friction is anticipated as a part of the change.
To deal with it, it is indispensable to build up a "peace preservation system of the Heisei period at the end of the century" for the complete surveillance and exclusion of "independent" citizen movements. The danger of the AUM Shinrikyo organization, which does not exist in reality, has been drummed into the people and media to mean that "your life is in danger." Taking advantage of this, the ruling parties realized that the establishment and reinforcement of a peace preservation system in the Heisei period. The beginnings of this system were recently established in the form of a wiretapping law which is incomparable in the world in that it allows the police to wiretap even E-mail; the anti-organized crime law; the concealing of police witnesses; the registration of every citizen; and the "N- system"(automobile surveillance system). In addition, a change for the worst in Juvenile Law and a more flexible Anti-subversive Activities Law are also scheduled to be investigated.
The splendid overlapping of the "de-nationalization of AUM followers" and the establishment of repressive laws in the Diet reveals the truth: AUM Shinrikyo was a scapegoat. It is all too clear who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
It is not the regulation of power, but frank, direct dialogue between the general civil society and the citizens who are AUM followers that is necessary to protect our freedom and democracy.

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