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Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"Prosecutors file appeal over life term for Ex-AUM member Inoue"

(Kyodo News Service, June 16, 2000)

TOKYO, June 16 (Kyodo) - Prosecutors filed an appeal at the Tokyo High Court on Friday against a lower court's June 6 ruling sentencing former AUM Shinrikyo member Yoshihiro Inoue to life in prison for 10 crimes, including murder, related to the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office had demanded the death sentence for Inoue, 30. The Tokyo District Court, however, said Inoue did not play an active role in the crimes, such as releasing sarin in the subway trains, and thus handed down the lesser sentence.
But the lower court ruling said Inoue did have a key role in the sarin attack, and committed the crime in collusion with the cult's founder Shoko Asahara. The Tokyo subway gassing March 20, 1995 killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Inoue was one of the closest aides to Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto and who is on trial in 17 criminal cases.
The district court ruled that Inoue, the cult's former top intelligence officer, fully recognizes what he did and regrets his deeds.

"Surveillance is unnecessary as cult poses no danger, Aum leader claims"

("Japan Times," June 16, 2000)

Aum Shinrikyo chief Tatsuko Muraoka testified during the first hearing of a lawsuit filed against the Public Security Examination Commission that ongoing surveillance of the cult under the anti-Aum law is unnecessary as it no longer poses a threat to society.
Muraoka said before the Tokyo District Court that Aum, which has changed its named to Aleph, is a completely different organization from the one that committed the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
"I realize that what is behind the surveillance is public anxiety over our activities, but it has already been proven by past inspections that we are harmless," she said.
The cult was placed under surveillance by the commission on Feb. 1, following the enactment of a law in December that allows authorities to monitor groups responsible for mass murder.
In deciding to monitor Aum, the commission deemed that the cult remains a threat to society and could again commit mass murder.
During Thursday's hearing, Muraoka said the cult no longer matches the criteria specified in the law, specifically a stipulation that the group's leader at the time the crimes were committed retains influence over members.
Under the law, Aum must provide information about its members and activities every three months. Cult facilities across the country have been raided seven times since the surveillance was begun.
During Thursday's hearing, Yuji Maeda, a lawyer representing the cult, said the law runs counter to the freedom of religion and equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
Muraoka said the law has triggered disregard for members' human rights by the media and local-level authorities, as is seen in the rejection of their applications for residency with local governments.
The cult filed the lawsuit on Feb. 8 with the Tokyo District Court, seeking a court order to stop the surveillance.

"Aum law fingered in Amnesty International report"

("The Japan Times", June 15, 2000)

Amnesty International referred to Japan's recently enacted legislation targeting Aum Shinrikyo and a law authorizing wiretapping by police as human-rights concerns, in its annual report released Wednesday.
"There were concerns that these laws could be arbitrarily used by police against peaceful activists," said the London-based, human-rights watchdog.
Last December, the Diet enacted a set of laws aimed at controlling activities of organizations that had committed "indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years." Under the laws, Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that has renamed itself Aleph, was placed earlier this year under tight surveillance and must undergo regular inspections of its facilities.
Aum Shinrikyo has claimed responsibility for the 1995 sarin gas attack that killed 12 and injured thousands in Tokyo's subways.
Last year, the Diet also enacted a law allowing authorities to monitor communications during investigations of organized crime.
Amnesty said the wiretapping law "could violate constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy and confidential communication."
The report also mentioned that five death-row inmates were executed in 1999. "One of the five had filed a habeas corpus petition to the court, and another had petitioned for a retrial," it added.
Amnesty said about 85 percent of all executions worldwide are concentrated in just five countries, China and the United States among them.
At least 1,813 people were put to death in 31 countries in 1999. Of these, China executed 1,077, followed by Iran with 166, Saudi Arabia with 103, Congo, formerly Zaire, with about 100, and the U.S. with 98, according to Amnesty.
The group denounced China for sentencing and executing people for political reasons without any public announcement. Amnesty also criticized the U.S. for executing people under 18 years old.
Amnesty also said that Yoshihiro Yasuda, which the group described as "a well-known human rights lawyer and campaigner against the death penalty," was detained for 10 months after being arrested on suspicion of obstructing investigations of his client later in 1998.
Noting that Yasuda was dismissed as lawyer for the accused Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara as a result of his detention, the report said Asahara's rights to a fair trial "may have been jeopardized." Other human right concerns the watchdog cited includes Japan's "harsh and highly secretive" prison system. "Prisoners continued to face cruel and humiliating treatment," it said.
It also mentioned treatment of foreign asylum seekers in Japan, saying "the process for determining asylum, which continued to be subject to long delays, lacked transparency."

"AUM members demand residency registration to vote"

(Kyodo News Service, June 14, 2000)

MITO, Japan, June 14 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult petitioned the Mito District Court on Wednesday to order the municipal government of Sanwa, Ibaraki Prefecture, to accept its members' residency registration so they can vote in the upcoming general election, group members said.
The cult called for a provisional court order to overturn a previous decision by the Sanwa town government not to accept residency registration by 15 AUM members living in the town.
Without residency registration, they will be unable to vote in the June 25 House of Representatives general election.
AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, plans to take similar legal action for its members living in two Tokyo municipalities, they said.
Several municipalities in Japan have refused to accept AUM members as residents due to other residents' concerns about the presence of the cult.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and a number of other cultists have been accused or convicted of committing a number of crimes including the 1995 fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

"Japan's doomsday cult petitions for voting rights"

(Reuters, June 14, 2000)

TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - A Japanese doomsday cult which has said it carried out the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo underground asked a local court on Wednesday to allow its members to vote in the June 25 general election, a court official said.
The Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult filed a petition at Mito District Court, northeast of Tokyo, requesting the town of Sanwa temporarily register 15 cult members so they can vote in the Lower House election for parliament, he said.
In order to vote, they need to be registered residents in the area where they live, but some local governments have refused to register the cult's members.
Sanwa officials said Aum members have been denied residency registration as the cult is a threat to public safety.
``Aum has committed a major crime and people who live here will not accept such people in the town,'' he said.
The cult has been trying to project a new image and changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet -- in January.
Last month it said it would pay 4.1 billion yen compensation to victims of the 1995 attack, in which 12 people were killed and thousands injured, and other incidents.
Cult leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for murder, masterminding the 1995 attack and 16 other charges, including planning another nerve gas attack in 1994 in which seven people were killed and 144 injured.
Last week a key cult member was sentenced to life in prison for 10 crimes, including murder.
Prompted by fears the cult was making a comeback, Japan's parliament passed strict surveillance laws last December.
Aum was placed under government surveillance in February for three years. The move allows authorities to inspect the cult's sites and obliges it to submit a list of members to authorities.

"Former devout AUM acolyte seeks out redemption"

("Mainichi Shimbun", June 11, 2000)

Yoshihiro Inoue joined AUM Shinrikyo at 16. It is not known what was going on in his mind at the time, but no doubt he shared with other lost teens a desperate need for a sense of belonging and a readiness to commit his loyalty in return for a warm welcome. Focus (6/14) describes him as a "pure culture" -- or, as we might say, a blank slate.
When the man wielding the pencil is a Shoko Asahara, that's a dangerous thing to be. The young Inoue was an eager pupil, Focus says, devoting himself heart and soul to the master's teachings of liberation and enlightenment that culminated in the March 1995 sarin attack on Tokyo's rush-hour subway. Chaos briefly bared its face, killing 12, sickening thousands, and appalling almost everyone -- including, apparently, Inoue himself, who seems in a fit of post-arrest reflection to have undergone a change of heart. When on Tuesday he was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life imprisonment, AUM's victims decried the Tokyo District Court ruling and insisted Inoue's repentance was expedient rather than sincere. We'll probably never know.
He's 30 now, an appropriate age for the re-examination of one's past. This is what he seemed to be engaged in throughout his own trial and other AUM-related court cases. He quit the cult, acknowledged his guilt, and cooperated with prosecutors. Still, says Focus, there was always a note of bitterness beneath the surface, a resentment that the weight of the law was falling so heavily on his shoulders and so lightly on others'.
"He knew more than I ever did about AUM's secret works," he is quoted as testifying. "He," Focus explains, is Koichi Ishikawa, apparently second only to Asahara in planning the cult's operations. Ishikawa is not a household name. Unlike Inoue, who was AUM's "intelligence minister," Ishikawa had no title, unless "cloistered emperor" is one. According to the magazine, he came to AUM from Tokyo University's faculty of medicine, rising quickly to become a top Asahara advisor.
Inoue's testimony -- at his own trial, at Asahara's, and in civil court -- implicates Ishikawa not only in the sarin attack, concerning which he is said to have huddled with Asahara -- but also in the LSD "initiations" which allegedly resulted in about 10 deaths, and in the alleged murder by VX gas of a "spy" within the cult. The chain of command as traced by Inoue led from Asahara down to himself and the other familiar AUM lights via the shadowy Ishikawa, who continues, says Focus, to enjoy the quiet life of a student, apparently untouchable by prosecutors.

"Doomsday in Tokyo"

by Haruki Murakami ("South China Morning Post," June 9, 2000)

Leafing through a magazine one day, I found myself looking at the letters page. One of the letters caught my attention. It was from a woman whose husband had lost his job because of the Tokyo gas attack. A subway commuter, he had been unfortunate enough to be on his way to work in one of the carriages of train A725K, in which the sarin gas was released by members of the Aum cult.
He passed out and was taken to hospital after the train was finally cleared of people at Kasumigaskie station, the intersection of the three subway lines. But even after several days' recuperation, the after-effects lingered on, and he couldn't get himself back into the working routine. At first, he was tolerated, but as time went on his boss and colleagues began to make snide remarks. Unable to bear the atmosphere any longer, he resigned.
The letter shocked me. Here were people who still carried serious psychological scars. As if it weren't enough to be the victim of purely random violence, the man had suffered "secondary victimisation". Why could nobody do anything about it? I grew curious to learn more and decided to interview the survivors of the attack.
I had a hunch that we needed to see a true picture of all the survivors, severely traumatised or not, in order to better grasp the whole incident. But first you must imagine . . . The date is Monday, March 20, 1995. It is a beautiful clear spring morning. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway station. You board the train, crowded as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. It promises to be a perfectly run-of-the-mill day. Until five men in disguise poke at the floor of the carriage with the sharpened tips of their umbrellas, puncturing some plastic bags filled with a strange liquid . . .
Kiyoka Izumi, 26
Works in the PR department of a foreign airline company:

"I never get ill, but on the morning of March 20 I wasn't feeling well. I caught the train to work anyway. I stood at the front next to the driver's compartment, holding the handrail. Then, when I took a deep breath, I got this sudden pain. It was like I'd been shot or something, all of a sudden my breathing completely stopped. I'd never felt so bad. It was that intense.
"When the train got to my stop I began to feel really sick. So instead of going straight out, I thought I'd better go to the toilet first. As I was passing the stationmaster's office, I saw three station attendants just lying there. I was at a loss. What was going on? When I came out of the station 10 minutes later they had been brought up and were laid on the ground, spoons stuck in their mouths as a precaution against them choking on their tongues.
About six other station staff sat there on the flower beds holding their heads and crying. I didn't have a clue what was happening. I thought they were grieving for their colleagues.
"TV Tokyo cameramen were filming the whole scene. I ran after the film crew, saying: 'Now's not the time for that! If you've got transport, take these people to the hospital!' The driver conferred with his crew and said, 'All right, fine.' We managed to lift Mr Takahashi, the station attendant who later died, into the back, along with another assistant. The driver pleaded with me, 'Miss, you come along with us', but there were still lots of others being brought above ground and someone had to look after them, so I stayed behind. There was a girl nearby, crying and trembling. I tried to comfort her until the ambulance came. One man was foaming at the mouth. I had no idea humans could foam like that.
"When I got to the office, my boss had seen me on TV, and everyone was asking, 'Ms Izumi, are you really okay?' After a while a message came from Personnel: 'If you start to feel ill report to hospital immediately.' So they put me in an ambulance. I had this terrible asthmatic cough and a high fever of over 40 degrees Celsius. I was completely immobilised. As I lay there, the television showed Mr Takahashi lying dead with a spoon in his mouth. I couldn't bear to watch it."
Minoru Miyata, 54
Chauffeur for TV Tokyo:

"When we got to the station everybody was screaming their heads off. Ikida, the cameraman was shooting the whole scene. That's when somebody spoke up: 'How about instead of filming us, you help take one or two people to hospital?' So me and the crew talked it over. 'What the hell are we going to do? It'll look bad if we don't take them.'
"In the car we had assistant stationmaster Takahashi, who died, and another guy, not as bad. We ran all the red lights; went the wrong way down one-way streets. We were desperate; I knew it was life-or-death. When we got to the hospital they couldn't cope. It was 9.30am, over an hour since the gas attack. And yet the hospital didn't know what had happened. That night I learned Takahashi had died, which made me so sad. To think that someone you had transported didn't make it."
Toshiaki Toyoda, 52
Station attendant:

"I was on monitor duty that day for the Chiyoda Line, and two colleagues died. Two men who ate in the same canteen as me. To tell the truth, I'd rather not remember it . . . That day at about 7.40am, I handed over to Okazawa saying: 'Everything's in order.' Pretty soon, though, Okazawa came by, picked up the intercom and said: 'There was an explosion or something at Tsukiji Station, so they've stopped the train.' Next came a phone call from Central Office: 'Suspicious item sighted on board. Please verify.' When I got to train A725K I noticed there were spots all over the platform, almost like paraffin or something. And around the base of a pillar were seven or eight big wads of newspaper. Takahashi was on the platform - he'd been trying to mop up the stuff.
"I crouched down, picked up the bundles of newspaper and put them in a plastic bag that Okazawa held open for me. We carried the bags back to the office staffroom. Takahashi stayed on the platform cleaning. I was trembling all over by then. I tried to check the train timetable, but couldn't read the numbers. Just then word came in that Takahashi had collapsed on the platform..
I was in no shape to go and help. I tried to call in to head office, but my voice wouldn't come. All the time those bundles of sarin-soaked newspapers were right there at my feet.
"I went to wash my face. Nose running, eyes watering, not a pretty sight.
Just then I started foaming at the mouth. I went faint and collapsed. After that I don't remember a thing. It was 11 the next morning before I came to, and found out Takahashi and Hishinuma, another colleague, had died. That night I couldn't get to sleep. I have no physical symptoms, but psychologically there's this burden. I've got to get rid of it somehow."
Mitsuteru Izutsu, 38
Shrimp import buyer for a major trading house:

"I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until I got off the train. A lot of people coughing, but that was all. I just went to the office. The TV is always on so we can keep up with the exchange rates. When I saw the news report I didn't think for a moment it was the train I'd taken, but slowly I started to feel ill. Everyone said I should go to hospital.
"There were a few other sarin victims there and they'd set up a production line to test blood pressure and the like. They still didn't have any antidote, but I was put on a drip for an hour and a half, then I was told to go home and come back tomorrow. They didn't do any tests at all. The next day was a holiday, so I just lay down and rested. Everything still seemed dark, and I had no energy. Couldn't sleep much at night. I was scared that if I went to sleep I might never wake up again.
"I live alone now, but at the time I had a family. A wife and kids. The day after the gas attack, I asked my wife for a divorce. We hadn't been on the best of terms for quite a while. Still, even after all I'd been through, she would barely speak to me. I phoned home from the office to tell her what had happened, but I got almost no reaction from her. Perhaps she couldn't really grasp the situation. But even so, well . . . I knew then that we'd come to a turning point. I came straight out with it and said I wanted a divorce.
Perhaps if this sarin thing hadn't happened, I wouldn't have said anything.
It was a shock to the system and at the same time a kind of trigger."
Kenji Ohashi, 41
Car dealer married with three children:

"As soon as I got on the train, I noticed two people in odd postures behind me. A man hunched over in his seat, nearly falling off, and a huddled woman, head down and sort of curled up. And then there was this really strange smell. At first I thought there must be some drunk who's thrown up making the place stink. But I got a seat, so I was prepared to put up with a little smell. I soon fell asleep, so when I suddenly heard the announcement 'This station is Nakano-sakaue', I snapped awake, jumped up and left the train.
Everything was dim. The lights on the platform were faint. My throat was parched and I was coughing. I went to the water-cooler and gargled. My nose was running and my legs were shaky. I sat down. My lungs were wheezing like I was running a marathon. I was afraid if I lost consciousness I'd be done for..
"I was taken by police van to Nakano General Hospital. They put me on an IV straight away but we were still wearing our sarin-saturated clothes. Soon the hospital staff were complaining of eye trouble, too. I was in hospital for 12 days: vicious headaches the whole time. No pain-killer worked. I was in agony. The headaches would come in waves all day. They finally discharged me on March 31 and I took a month off work to recuperate at home. First thing in the morning my head would hurt. It was like a killer hangover.
"I went to see a psychologist at St Luke's Hospital and he said I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since then I've been relieved of my managerial responsibilities and only work 8.30am to 3pm. I feel very isolated. I still have headaches all day. There have been times I've contemplated suicide. I almost think I'd be better off dead. If I'd lost an arm, or was reduced to a vegetable, people could probably sympathise more. If only I'd died then, how much easier it would have been. But when I think of my family, I have to go on . . ."
Tatsuo Akashi (not his real name), 37
Elder brother of critically injured 'Shizuko Akashi' who was reduced to a vegetative condition by the attack and remains in hospital:

"I had taken the company car to see a client, when a call came in from the office. I was to contact my mother urgently. 'We had a call from the police,' she said. 'Shizuko was injured in the subway and taken to hospital. Go quickly!' I reached the hospital around noon. The reception was filled with victims. All of them were on drips or getting examined. The doctors weren't much help. All they told me that day was: 'She inhaled a virulent chemical similar to a pesticide.'
"I waited for two hours and then got to see her just briefly. She was dressed in a hospital gown and lying in bed getting artificial dialysis. She was on several drips. Her eyes were closed. According to the nurse she was in a 'sleeping state'. I reached out to touch her but the doctor held me back; I wasn't wearing gloves. She had been having convulsions since they brought her in. Her face, to be crude, looked more dead than asleep. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth, and she was expressionless. The device that measured her heartbeat hardly flickered, just an occasional blip. I could hardly bear to look at her.
"That evening our parents, my wife and kids all came to the hospital. The kids were too small to understand the situation, but seeing them let me get some feelings out. 'Something horrible's happened to Auntie Shizuko . . . 'I started crying. My kids were upset; they'd never seen me cry before. They tried to comfort me, 'Daddy, Daddy, don't cry!' - and then we were all crying. A few days later, we were shown an X-ray of her head and were told: 'The brain's swollen.' They said there was virtually no chance of further recovery. In other words, while she wasn't a 'vegetable', she would probably remain bedridden for the rest of her life. Unable to sit up, unable to speak, barely aware of anything.
"Since then, she's had therapy and progressed to the point where she can move her right hand. It's still not easy for her to speak, but she seems to understand most of what we're saying. This year she's been able to laugh.
I'll say, 'Who farted?' and she'll answer 'Brother' but whether or not she knows what a 'brother' is is another matter. Most of her memory has disappeared. Destroyed by those idiots. They stole what little joy we had."
Hiroshige Sugazaki, 58
Insurance executive:

"As soon as the train door opened that morning I turned right and got a seat..
I looked up to see this man sitting directly to my left wearing a leather coat. 'This guy stinks,' I thought and I stared him right in the eye. He just stared back at me with this 'You-got-a-problem, mister?' look. Then I saw something about the size of a notebook lying at the feet of the second person on my right. A plastic pack with something spilling out of it. Soon there's nobody left at the back of the carriage. Everyone's moved to the front, saying, 'It stinks! It stinks!'
"By then my head was spinning. I thought to myself 'I really must be anaemic today.' I decided to get off and rest for a while, maybe let two or three trains go by. But when I tried to stand I couldn't get up. My legs had gone.
I grabbed the handstrap and sort of dangled from it. I moved from strap to strap until I reached the pole near the door. I grabbed it and just slid down to the floor. They ran a photo of me in the tabloids, so I could see later what happened. I was seen on television, too, lying like that on the carriage floor. I was flat out for at least half an hour. Then the station attendants carried me away.
"I came to in hospital three days later. I had no awareness of time passing at all. No awareness is paradise. Around that time one of my daughters was pregnant. I'd been anxious about it. It would be my first grandchild. Well, apparently my sister-in-law came in and said to me: 'What if you never see your grandchild's face?' Until then I'd shown absolutely no reaction to anything anyone had said, but this I heard and suddenly regained consciousness. My grandson was born in September, and thanks to him I came back to life."
Yoshiko Wada, 31
Widow of Eiji Wada. She was pregnant when her husband died. A daughter, Asuka, was born not long afterwards:

"I met my husband skiing. This was in February, 1991. We saw each other a lot after that. Every week, and if possible at weekends, too. It really seemed we were made for each other. Like it was fate or something. We were married in June the following year.
"We hardly ever quarrelled. I was irritable while I was pregnant. I'd get at him for the most trivial things but he just took it all in his stride. He was such a kind person. He seemed to get even kinder before he died. If he got home from work and the cooking had gone wrong he'd just say, 'It's all right, I'll get a take-away.' And when I had morning sickness and could only eat sandwiches and grapefruit jelly, he'd always buy them for me on the way home from work.
"The day before March 20 we went shopping together. Something he would ordinarily never do. We went to buy baby clothes and nappies, stuff like that. The next morning he said to me, 'If anything ever happens to me, you know you have to hang on in there and fight.' It was as though he had some kind of premonition. He left the house around 7.30am. I pottered about a bit before settling down to watch the Morning Wide Show. Across the TV screen they ran subtitles - 'Such-and-such happened at Tsukiji Station' - but I didn't worry because I thought he commuted by the Marunouchi line. At 9.30am a call came from the company saying: 'He seems to have got mixed up in this mess. We'll call back later.' Then 10 minutes later, it was, 'He's been taken to Nakajima Hospital. We'll fax you the details so you can get in touch directly.' So I rang them up, but they were in total confusion. 'We can't even keep track of who's here,' they said, and hung up. So all I could do was be patient and wait.
"It was just before 10 when the call came: 'It looks pretty bad, come to the hospital as quickly as possible.' I was getting ready to leave when they rang again with the message: 'He just died.' I took a taxi to the hospital but by the time I got there the body had been transferred to the central police station in Nihonbashi. I took another taxi. The driver had the news on and they were reading out the names of the deceased. I heard my husband's name. I thought, 'I can't be sure until I see his face. I won't cry until I know for sure' . . . I just hoped against hope.
"They were examining the body, so it was 1.30pm before I got to see him in the morgue. They'd laid him out completely naked and covered with a white sheet. 'Don't touch him,' they told me. 'Don't go too near.' If I touched him the sarin would penetrate my skin. But I'd already touched him. He was still warm. There were bloodied bite marks on his lips. Scabs, as if he'd bitten down really hard. And on his ears and nose, too, crusted, where he had bled.
His eyes were shut. I couldn't stay very long because it was 'dangerous'. I was in there less than a minute. 'Why did he have to die?' I said. 'Why did he leave me here?' And I broke down. The body was transferred to Tokyo University Medical Department where, the next day, I bid him a final farewell. They didn't let me touch him then either, nor my mother-in-law. We could only look. I couldn't believe they had left him overnight in such a lonely place.
"The only good thing now is Asuka. Some little gesture, some food she likes will remind me of him. I'm always telling Asuka, 'Dada was like this.' When Asuka asks, 'Where's Dada?' I point to the photo on the altar and say, 'Dada, Dada.' She says 'Nighty-night' to the photo before going to sleep. It makes me want to cry. I'm thinking of teaching Asuka to ski. My husband always said he would. I'll wear my husband's gear and teach her. We wore the same size. I think I'll start next season. It's what he would have wanted."
The Aum Shinrikyo Cult: The trial of the Aum Shinrikyo cult members accused of the subway attack began nearly four years ago, after their sarin gas factory was discovered outside Tokyo. Masato Yokoyama received a death sentence last year while Kiyotaka Tonozaki and Koichi Kitamura have been sentenced to life in prison. Yoshihiro Inoue was also sentenced to life in prison earlier this week. The other five, including part-blind guru Shoko Asahara are still in court. The cult continues to thrive. It now has about 2,000 members and earned £30 million (HK$344 million) last year from its shops selling cut-price computers.

"Cultist 'glad' to help Asahara by releasing sarin"

("Japan Times," June 9, 2000)

A former Aum Shinrikyo member who was 17 when she was involved in the 1994 sarin gas attack on an anti-Aum lawyer testified in court Thursday that at the time she was "glad" she could help cult leader Shoko Asahara.
Testifying in the 159th session of Asahara's trial at the Tokyo District Court, the former cultist, whose name was withheld as she was a minor at the time of the offense, told how she poured the liquid form of sarin into Yokohama lawyer Taro Takimoto's car in Yamanashi Prefecture in May 1994 on Asahara's orders.
She said that she was honored to receive Asahara's order as she thought that it meant Asahara trusted her and would take care of her.
"I think everybody in the cult would have felt the same way (if they had received an order from Asahara)," she told the court.
The woman joined the cult when she was 15. Before receiving the order she had been concerned that Asahara had a cold attitude toward her. Consequently, she told the court, she spontaneously accepted the order with a feeling akin to a "child who had been forgiven by parents."
The woman also related how she poured the liquid form of sarin into the ventilation grille in the lawyer's car, which was parked outside the Kofu District Court. Takimoto had been attending a civil suit lodged against the cult.
The woman, who left the cult in 1996, said she poured the sarin from a small bottle into Takimoto's car, following a procedure outlined by Aum doctor Tomomasa Nakagawa and the cult's chemist, Seiichi Endo.
Takimoto has testified during Asahara's trial that he suffered from impaired vision -- a symptom caused by inhaling sarin -- while he was driving his car from the court.
The former cultist said she also suffered similar symptoms three days after the attack. She also said she was thanked by Asahara after returning to the cult's headquarters later that day.

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Revised last: 16-06-2000