Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
MIYAZAKI (Kyodo) -- The Miyazaki District Court on Monday ordered two former Aum Shinrikyo members and the cult's founder, Shoko Asahara, to pay a combined 15.8 million yen to a 69-year-old man the group abducted and kept under house arrest for five months in 1994.
The court said Asahara and former senior members Yoshihiro Inoue and Ikuo Hayashi should compensate the man and his family, who had sought 57 million yen in damages for emotional distress caused by the abduction.
Presiding Judge Hiroko Ando said that although Asahara did not take part in the kidnapping, he was involved in its planning.
They "inflicted psychological damage by drugging him semiconscious, abducting him and putting him under house arrest for about five months," Ando said in her ruling.
The judge said the fourth defendant, Yoshinobu Aoyama, a former senior member and legal adviser to Aum, is not liable for the damages because his involvement in the abduction could not be proven.
The abducted man, who used to own a Japanese-style inn in Kobayashi, Miyazaki Prefecture, said he is "very satisfied" that the court recognized the acts committed by the defendants as unlawful.
"We are relieved that, with this ruling, my family's battle against the cult has come to an end," the man said.
However, a representative for the plaintiff said, "We're not satisfied that Aoyama's involvement was not recognized by the court. I will consult with the former inn owner to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling."
According to the ruling, the man was abducted from his inn by Aum members -- including his own daughter -- in March 1994.
The group members, targeting the man's assets, drove him to the Aum facility in the village of Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, and detained him there for about five months, the ruling said.
Although his family once tried to rescue him from the Aum facility, they were turned away by the cult's followers.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in August 1995. In November 1997, the parties nearly reached an out-of-court settlement in which the cult would pay compensation of 11 million yen, but the plaintiffs insisted that the former senior members themselves also pay compensation.
Aum now calls itself Aleph.
TOKYO, May 30 (Kyodo) - Film director Kei Kumai said Tuesday he is working on a film that recounts a bungled police investigation into a deadly nerve-gas attack in Nagano Prefecture and media coverage of the incident.
''Japan's Black Summer -- A False Charge'' examines the attack by AUM Shinrikyo in a neighborhood of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and how the prime suspect turned out to be innocent.
''I feel a closeness to this case because when I was a child a man who lived near me found himself treated like a criminal suspect,'' Kumai told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.
''I want to make an exact and thorough portrayal of the media's mentality and reasoning,'' said the director, a Nagano native.
The movie, to be shot on location in Matsumoto, will be the first to examine an AUM-related crime. It is expected to be released in the spring of next year.
Seven people died and hundreds were hospitalized in the attack in June 1994. Police originally arrested a local resident, Yoshiyuki Kono, who was the first to report the incident to authorities. Investigators said the attack was the result of a failed attempt by Kono to make weed killer.
Media reports tended to support investigators' version of events, despite flimsy evidence and the suspect's constant appeals of innocence.
Later, AUM Shinrikyo, whose members carried out the Tokyo subway gassing the following year, was implicated, forcing investigators to admit they were wrong.
Kumai said it reminded him of the Teigin mass murder and robbery incident of 1948, the subject of his first movie in 1964.
In the Teigin Incident, a man induced the staff of a branch of the Imperial Bank to drink cyanide, saying it was an ''antidote'' for dysentery. Twelve died. An artist, Sadamichi Hirasawa, was later sentenced to death for the crime.
However, he maintained his innocence until he died in prison in 1987, and many people supported him.
The story line of Kumai's future film was inspired by a documentary produced by a Matsumoto high school that won the grand prize at the Tokyo Video Festival in 1998.
In the documentary, high school students interview production staff of a broadcast network to retrace the details of the gas attack.
The movie will star Kiichi Nakai and also feature Akira Terao and Naomi Hosokawa.
TOKYO, May 29 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult Monday filed a damages suit against three media companies, claiming they libeled AUM by reporting that the cult is continuing to study the production of the nerve gas sarin, AUM members said.
Cult spokesman Hiroshi Araki said, AUM, which earlier admitted the culpability of some of its members in the 1995 fatal sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, is seeking 10 million yen each and a public apology from the Mainichi Shimbun, the Sankei Shimbun and Nippon Television Network Corp.
Araki said the organizations claimed in their reports that AUM has continued to study methods for producing the gas.
The reports cited information from police about two seized notebooks in which a 32-year-old female AUM follower allegedly wrote down methods for manufacturing the gas.
She was arrested late April on suspicion of violation of the weapons control law.
''We don't hope for court battles but hope the mass media produces more in-depth reports based on truth,'' Araki told a Monday press conference.
AUM Shinrikyo, now calling itself ''Aleph,'' launched the gas attack on the Tokyo subways March 20, 1995, killing 12 passengers and sickening thousands of others.
A doomsday cult memo discovered last month contains the recipe for sarin nerve gas, suggesting the group plans to resume production of the poison used to kill 12 people in a 1995 attack on the Tokyo subways, police said today.
Police believe the memo, found inside a car belonging to the Aum Shinri cult, was produced within the last couple of years. It contained a list of chemical ingredients and procedures to make sarin.
The memo was seized when police arrested a daughter of the former cult leader Shoko Asahara, currently on murder trial for the subway gassing, a Metropolitan Police Department official said on condition of anonymity.
The discovery comes as police are more closely scrutinizing the group, which has recently revived its recruiting and business activities. Police say the cult earns about 7bn yen ($65 million) a year from its discount computer chain stores.
Police believe the memo belonged to a female cultist who was driving the car when Asahara's daughter, 21-year-old Miwa Matsumoto, was arrested. The driver was not arrested, and Matsumoto - accused of illegal knife possession - was later bailed out.
Japan's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri, said the cult member is a woman in her 30s who was involved in illegal drug production for Aum, which now calls itself Aleph. Several newspapers said the woman also has a college degree in chemistry.
The woman has told her friends that she involved in the production of the nerve gas used in the subway attack and that sarin was easy to produce, the Yomiuri quoted investigators as saying.
Aum Shinri Kyo said in a statement that the memo was not intended for nerve gas production but to help a lawyer defending a cult member currently on trial.
The woman, who was not identified, has left the cult and is currently living with her parents at home, the cult said.
"The memo has nothing to with our group," the cult said.
It also denied reports that she has involved in the cult's nerve gas production before the 1995 attack.
Members of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult have continued to pursue their interest in making lethal sarin gas, police said Thursday. Cult members have admitted to releasing the toxic gas on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, but documents seized recently from a follower close to AUM guru Shoko Asahara's daughter indicate the doomsday group continues to maintain its fetish for the lethal substance. AUM has pledged to mend its evil ways, but it appears to have even scoured overseas sources to find out how to make the toxic gas.
"I can make sarin really easily. I worked in a sarin factory before the subway attack," a friend of the follower quoted her as having said recently.
AUM officials denied any wrong- doing. They say the follower had the notebooks to give to the lawyer of an AUM member standing trial for the subway gassing.
Public safety officials pledged to treat the documents seriously, saying that they serve as proof of the need to eradicate the doomsday cult.
They will also determine whether cult bigwigs were behind the move to make the death gas, or if it was merely an idea pursued by a few rebels.
Police said that two notebooks seized from the cult were dotted with references to the creation of sarin.
Police said the information outlined in the documents was of a technical nature and not the type of knowledge that could be easily found on the streets.
They also said the doomsday cult member who had been accompanying Asahara's daughter was knowledgeable in the sarin creation process and had written cautionary notes in the margins of the notebooks. The notebooks seemed to have been filled about one to two years ago.
The follower at the center of the storm left an AUM facility with Asahara's daughter in January, but the pair went their separate ways two months later.
On April 22, a car in which Asahara's daughter was riding was searched by police, leading to the discovery of the notebooks.
TOKYO, May 26 (Kyodo) - June 6 - Management and Coordination Agency to release overall household spending statistics for April at 1 p.m.
Tokyo District Court to rule at 10 a.m. on Yoshihiro Inoue, a former AUM Shinrikyo senior member accused of leading the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway system.
NAGOYA - Death cult AUM Shinrikyo has been forced to shut down the cafe serving as its unofficial Nagoya base a mere three months after setting it up because its top operator was arrested and the facility raided, police said Wednesday.
Cultists claim the cafe had nothing to do with AUM and is run by Aleph - the name by which the doomsday cult now refers to itself - and say they are forced to move because the coffee shop went broke.
Police, however, say that even if the cafe was not accorded official status within the cult, it was home to a number of followers and also used for cultists to give lessons on the teachings of Shoko Asahara, the AUM founder being tried on 17 counts of murder, including several in connection with the lethal gassing of Tokyo's subway system in 1995.
Late last year, AUM lost its Nagoya base when members were ordered to leave an apartment in the city's Nishi ward. Just before they were evicted, however, four female cultists took out a contract on the apartment that they later turned into the cafe, which opened for business on Feb. 24.
Upon opening the cafe, the woman designated as the cult's top leader in Nagoya told her landlord that she had severed ties with AUM and was operating exclusively under the Aleph name.
Despite claiming to have nothing to do with the death cult, the cafe was used to provide sermons to paying customers and it effectively became AUM's Nagoya base.
However, things soured for the cult when the leader was arrested late last month for allegedly forging a driver's license. A police raid on the cafe prevented AUM from making money out of it, and cult members decided they had no other option but to shut it down.
Police said that AUM can count in its ranks about 100 people living in or around Nagoya. Police believe the death cult will try to establish another base in the city as soon as possible.
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