Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
(Kyodo News Service, March 30, 2000)
TOKYO, March 30 (Kyodo) - Senior AUM Shinrikyo members manufactured the sarin nerve gas the cult used on the Tokyo subway on the day before the attack on March 20, 1995, a senior AUM member testified Thursday.
The AUM members started producing the gas in the afternoon and finished in the evening, Tomomasa Nakagawa, 37, told a hearing at the Tokyo District Court.
''(AUM members) poured chemicals into a flask bearing a round-shaped bottom and dropped isopropyl alcohol into the flask as if administering an intravenous drip. Then the chemicals began producing sarin gas,'' Nakagawa said.
It was the first time a cult member involved in the making of the fatal gas has given an account of its production. Twelve people died and thousands were injured as a result of the attack.
Two other AUM members suspected of having been involved in the making of the gas -- Seiichi Endo, 39, and Masami Tsuchiya, 35 -- have refused to speak about it.
Nakagawa said, ''I will be sentenced to death. Even if I die, I cannot fully make compensation for what I did. I have no choice but to feel the sufferings of victims by my death.''
However, he claimed he did not know the members would release the gas in a subway train.
Nakagawa said he had received one of the chemicals used to make sarin from the late senior cult member Hideo Murai.
He said he then handed the chemical, which had been hidden in the cult's secret base in Tokyo, to Endo.
Nakagawa said he and Endo poured sarin into polyester bags during the night of March 19.
''I thought sarin would be hidden in an enemy organization, to be confiscated by the authorities from the enemy's facility,'' he said.
("Asahi Shimbun", March 30, 2000)
Colleagues rallied to help defend former Aum Shinrikyo lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama, but in the end they felt betrayed. Despite their cajoling, Aoyama kept returning to the cult.
In his latest trial at Tokyo District Court, where he was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison, Aoyama had 20 lawyers on his defense team-the largest ever assembled in an Aum trial.
Aoyama's attorneys were all former law classmates and they worked pro bono.
Aoyama joined Aum Shinrikyo in 1989. The following year, he was arrested by Kumamoto prefectural police on suspicion of forging documents for a land transaction.
His former classmates thought police had overreacted and they decided to defend him. They could not believe Aoyama was serious about the cult. They felt certain he would return-but they were wrong.
As soon as he was released on bail, Aoyama went back to the cult.
Said one of his attorneys: ``A wall was built between us. It's not something you can describe in words.''
In May 1995, Aoyama was rearrested by the Metropolitan Police Department for defaming a company president.
He chose a lawyer who was not a former classmate, but quickly removed him.
He didn't want to embarrass his former classmates any more than he already had, said one of his lawyers.
But they regrouped for his defense, with new members joining the team. They also made Aoyama swear to leave Aum for good-but in vain.
Aoyama, however, was arrested yet again in October 1995 for getting other cult members to commit perjury.
The defense team was devastated to learn that they had been lied to.
``We grew uncertain,'' said one. ``Once he joined Aum, he was no longer a lawyer. It became his religion.''
Others felt they had let their friend down because they had not stopped him returning to the cult.
But in his favor, Aoyama never played a direct role in any of the Aum crimes.
He has yet to appeal his 12-year prison sentence.
("Mainichi Shimbun", March 30, 2000)
A former elite lawyer who acted as a legal adviser and spokesman for AUM Shinrikyo during the cult's criminal heyday was sentenced to 12 years in prison Wednesday at a Tokyo court for attempted murder. Yoshinobu Aoyama, 40, took advantage of his legal position in his bid to kill fellow lawyer Taro Takimoto, who was leading a campaign against the cult, the Tokyo District Court ruling read.
"Aoyama neglected his duty as a lawyer. He abandoned his conscience and habitually breached the law (for the sake of AUM)," Presiding Judge Toshio Nagai said in handing down the prison term to Aoyama. "The defendant's legal status and expertise has played a crucial part in a series of AUM crimes, and he has grave responsibility." Aoyama was also found guilty of seven other charges, including defamation for accusing a waste-disposal company operator in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, in 1995 of attacking the cult facility there with poison gas. He also harbored a cult member wanted by police.
In May 1994, Aoyama, under instruction from AUM guru Shoko Asahara to kill Takimoto with a little "magic," ordered a cult follower to spray sarin nerve gas into the air intake of Takimoto's car, which was parked at the Kofu District Court.
Takimoto was sickened in the attack, but has recovered since.
Aoyama had been pleading not guilty in the attempted murder charge, arguing that he did not know that the nerve gas was to be used in the attack.
However, the judge dismissed the argument as a lie, saying that Aoyama took part in the planning of the "outrageous" attack, and it was impossible to carry it out without his involvement.
Prosecutors, who demanded a 15-year-sentence for Aoyama, said they were satisfied with the ruling.
But Takimoto argued that the sentence was "too light," after attending his attacker's trial.
"I will never forgive him as a fellow lawyer," said Takimoto. AUM allegedly tried to kill him on three other occasions after the May 1994 attack.
Takimoto said he was given a drink laced with Bacillus botulinus while he was negotiating with Aoyama about returning followers' children from cult facilities to their relatives.
"Aoyama was the one who urged me to drink the poisoned beverage," Takimoto said.
He said Aoyama provided a "shield" to the cult on and off the court because his very presence added legal credibility to AUM.
"Aoyama can't face what he has done due to his stupid pride as an elite AUM member who knew the 'supreme truth,' " Takimoto explained.
Aoyama passed his bar examination while he was still at the prestigious Kyoto University, and once was a member of legal team representing victims of pollution.
He became AUM's "justice minister" after joining the cult in 1988.
("Yomiuri Shimbun" March 29, 2000)
Materials seized by the Metropolitan Police Department at an Aum Supreme Truth cult facility include several documents detailing nuclear fuel transport routes and maps of nuclear power stationsamong various nuclear-related documents, sources close to the investigation said Tuesday.
Also, the MPD Public Security Bureau has found that some 1,600 items of data, of which 40 percent had to do with nuclear power generation, were leaked when an Aum computer software firm received an order for a system development from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co.
Alarmed by the cult's strong interest in nuclear power, the bureau is now trying to find out its motive for collecting such data, in that it cannot be overlooked from the point of view of security considerations.
According to the bureau, the document concerning nuclear fuel transportation was seized in January when police searched the cult's facility in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.
The report was typed on A-4 size paper and titled "Nuclear fuel transport situation within Japan." Each chapter of the report has detailed explanations. The chapters include "How to distinguish nuclear fuel transport vehicles," "Types of nuclear fuel transported" and "Transportation routes of nuclear fuel." The transport route chapter, for instance, explains a route from a Shinagawa wharf in Tokyo, where the fuel is unloaded, to a nuclear fuel processing facility in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture.
In the fuel transport vehicle chapter, the appearance of three transport firms' trailers and positions of police cars are detailed.
The MPD Public Security Bureau believes that the cult compiled the document in-house because it contains many typographical errors.
The map of nuclear power stations is on B-4 paper, with the locations of 13 nuclear power stations and nuclear fuel processing facilities between Tohoku and Kansai regions marked. The power output capacities of the power stations are also described on the map, according to the sources.
(Kyodo News Service, March 29, 2000)
TOKYO, March 29 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult revised its member list Wednesday to include 159 new lay followers and 70 minors, resulting in a total 1,226 followers.
AUM notified the Public Security Investigation Agency of the revision to the list of followers it first submitted to the agency earlier this month in line with a new law enacted late last year aimed at cracking down on the cult.
It also reported an additional 250 million yen worth of followers' individual assets.
AUM reiterated its view that founder Shoko Asahara, 45, who is on trial in 17 criminal cases including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, is not on the list because he is a ''spiritual being'' and thus does not need to apply for AUM membership.
Meanwhile, Tatsuko Muraoka, 50, the cult's representative, asked the agency to have its investigators present their identification when they carry out on-the-spot inspections.
AUM said it reported only the initials, basic addresses and ages of new minor followers out of fear that more specific data might be reported to relevant municipalities and the minors could face difficulties in attending schools.
The new law putting AUM under surveillance obliges the cult to report a list of its followers and its assets to the agency. If the cult makes a false report, it could be banned by the law from some activities and using facilities.
Under Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, AUM committed various crimes including the 1995 subway gassing that killed 12 people and injured thousands.
(Kyodo News Service, March 29, 2000)
UTSUNOMIYA, Japan, March 29 (Kyodo) - Two children of AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara have been allowed to attend a local elementary school in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, starting in April, despite opposition from residents, local education officials said Wednesday.
The Otawara municipal board of education said it has mailed a letter informing AUM that Asahara's 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son can attend the municipal Sakuyama Elementary School.
However, the children are expected to attend the school only for the first term until July under a compromise agreement reached earlier this month between the cult and the city government that eight cult members, including the two children, will leave the city by July 20.
AUM pledged the eight would not only leave the area but also not move to a nearby community. The cult asked the municipality to allow the two children go to school until they leave.
The Sakuyama school's PTA is calling on the education board to give lessons to the two children in a separate class from the other students.
The board officials said they will soon interview the children to decide whether they should be allowed to join regular classes or be taught separately.
On March 2, education officials in Otawara and in the village of Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, separately decided to allow AUM children to enter schools in their respective communities.
In Tokigawa, the village education board allowed the 6-year-old twin daughters of former senior AUM member Hisako Ishii to enter an elementary school in the village, reversing an earlier decision last September to deny them admission because of strong opposition to the cult among local residents.
Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, in urging the board to change its mind, said in February, ''We can fully understand the anxiety of local residents, but children's right to an education needs to be respected.''
Asahara is standing trial accused of playing a role in at least 17 criminal cases, including the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
(Kyodo News Service, March 29, 2000)
TOKYO, March 29 (Kyodo) - The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday sentenced a former member of and legal adviser to the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult to 12 years in prison for his role in attempted murder, attempted fraud and six other criminal cases.
Prosecutors had demanded 15 years in prison for Yoshinobu Aoyama, 40.
In the attempted murder case, Aoyama was found guilty of instructing other AUM members in 1994 to release the lethal sarin nerve gas in the car of lawyer Taro Takimoto, 43, who was helping people who had escaped from the cult.
Aoyama relayed an order from AUM founder Shoko Asahara to carry out the attack on Takimoto. Prosecutors say Asahara gave the order in the form of a cryptic instruction that the cult should use ''magic'' on Takimoto's car.
Aoyama denied that he understood Asahara's comment to be an order to commit murder.
''I thought the instruction lacked practicality and (the attack) would cause no harm'' on Takimoto, Aoyama earlier told the court. Takimoto suffered eye injuries in the attack.
(Associated Press, March 29, 2000)
TOKYO (AP) - A former lawyer for the doomsday cult behind Tokyo's 1995 subway gas attack, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison for attempted murder and other charges.
The Tokyo District Court found that lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama was involved in a botched attempt to kill Taro Takimoto, a lawyer representing victims of the cult, said a court official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors have said the cult, Aum Shinri Kyo, used sarin and VX gas in the attack.
The cult's guru, Shoko Asahara, is on trial for 17 counts of murder and attempted murder in the attack on Tokyo's subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands.
In 1994, the cult tried several times to murder Takimoto, 43, by spraying nerve gas on his car and the doorknob of his home, and by slipping poison in his drink.
Prosecutors said that Aoyama, 40, relayed an order from Asahara to carry out the sarin attack on Takimoto, Kyodo News agency said.
Aoyama denied in court that he understood that Asahara was ordering him to murder the lawyer. Takimoto suffered eye injuries in the attack.
The cult recently changed its name to Aleph in an apparent move to ward off crackdowns by authorities.
The group has been under government surveillance and has been declared bankrupt, but it is believed to be raking in hidden profits from a computer software business.
("Asahi Shimbun", March 29, 2000)
Former Aum Shinrikyo lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for attempted murder and other crimes that tarnished the legal profession.
Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year term for the now-disbarred lawyer.
Presiding Judge Toshio Nagai of Tokyo District Court said Aoyama, 40, took advantage of his status as a licensed lawyer to protect the interests of the cult.
On the conviction for attempted murder, Aoyama was found to have instructed cult followers in 1994 to release lethal sarin nerve gas around the car of a lawyer who helped people who had escaped from the cult.
The victim, Taro Takimoto, 43, suffered eye injuries in the attack.
The court said in its ruling that Aoyama had known in advance that sarin gas would be used in the attack.
It said he provided information to the cult on Takimoto's daily schedule and gave instructions at the scene of the crime.
The court said Aoyama's role was indispensable to the success of the attack..
It rejected his assertion that he had no intention of killing Takimoto. The court also rejected Aoyama's defense argument that he had not conspired with Aum followers in this instance.
The court said Aoyama's influence was obvious in other cases involving Aum and that he paid scant attention to the law and human rights as he promoted the interests of the cult.
The judge said Aoyama must be held responsible for his involvement in crimes committed by Aum since he had ignored his obligations as a lawyer.
According to the ruling, Aoyama ordered another cult member to commit perjury in a 1992 trial involving an illegal land deal in Namino, Kumamoto Prefecture. It said he also submitted a falsified document on the land deal as evidence to the Kumamoto District Court.
Aoyama illegally filed a complaint of false accusation in retaliation for a complaint against the cult by the former operator of a Japanese-style inn.
The cult said Aoyama also provided a cult fugitive with 5 million yen to remain on the run from police.
He also defamed a company boss in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, by accusing him of spraying poisonous gas on a cult facility there.
("Asahi Shimbun", March 29, 2000)
Software developers of the Aum Shinrikyo cult have apparently siphoned off information about Japan's nuclear program, Metropolitan Police Department investigators said Tuesday.
The police Public Security Bureau sources say they believe the cult compiled its information, including nuclear fuel suppliers, research and transportation of nuclear materials, through affiliated software companies that have developed computer programs for key corporations and governmental entities, including Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. (IHI) and the Ministry of Education.
Data on companies involved in the nation's nuclear programs and those engaged in nuclear research was included, the sources said.
Investigators traced the information leaks in the course of analysis of materials confiscated in a January sweep of cult facilities in Tokyo's Adachi Ward and elsewhere, the police sources said.
A five-page report on nuclear fuel transportation notes that nuclear fuel material is imported and transported to four facilities, including Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture, which has a concentration of several nuclear-related facilities. The report also notes expressway ramps that are access points for the transportation and routes followed by the material haulers after they leave the expressways, the sources said.
The same report says that convoys of three to five trucks with police escort vehicles are involved in hauling the nuclear cargo, the sources said.
The police investigators have not yet confirmed who compiled the report or where the report originated.
Officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. said information on transportation of nuclear fuels is classified, with access to details available to a limited number of utility officials.
Representatives of a citizens' group opposing nuclear power plants said, however, that such material can be found in some of the publications of other anti-nuclear citizen groups.
Other materials confiscated in the cult raids suggest some Aum members had measured radioactivity levels at a cult compound in Nagano Prefecture over about a one-year period since 1988, the sources said.
The cult, which now calls itself Aleph, had also built up background files on 75 researchers dealing with radioactive materials and other nuclear-related studies, including their residence addresses and e-mail addresses.
An Aleph spokesman said the group has no intention of conducting nuclear terrorism, and that it collected the information to deal with accidents at nuclear power plants and possible emergencies.
("Mainichi Shimbun", March 28, 2000)
A document that an AUM Shinrikyo affiliate had obtained from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. (IHI) contained information about contracts on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Monju fast-breeder reactor, police said Monday.
However, IHI officials denied that details of the works had not leaked to the computer software development company in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, which is linked to the cult.
The AUM affiliates, including the Arakawa-ku firm, had won contracts from many government ministries and agencies as well as major businesses including IHI. These entities had originally placed their orders with major software developing companies, which farmed out the works to the companies apparently without knowing they are cult affiliates.
According to officials, the Public Safety Division of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) made the discovery after examining a computer hard disk that it had confiscated from a cult-related facility.
The hard disk contained a list of estimates of contracts that IHI had won from its customers. The document listed the works and the names of those who had placed the orders along with other information.
Among the projects are "the suspension of operations of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant" in the former Soviet Union and "measures to prevent sodium that had leaked from the Monju fast-breeder reactor from damaging the facility."
IHI won a contract on Chernobyl from the Foreign Ministry, said MPD officials.
On the other hand, a domestic company had granted IHI a contract on the Monju reactor in Fukui Prefecture that has been closed since a sodium leak occurred at the facility in December 1995.
Furthermore, the list contained descriptions of contracts on other nuclear power plant-related projects in Russia, China, South Korea and Taiwan that IHI had won.
Investigators said they suspect that the AUM affiliate had selected necessary information from the list and rearranged it, noting that the list is different from the original owned by IHI.
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