State writing law to better handle Aum

Japan Times, September 8, 1999

The government will draw up a new law that can specifically restrict the activities of religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Wednesday.

The Justice Ministry will compile a bill to regulate a group that has committed indiscriminate mass murder in the past and whose basic demeanor remains unchanged, Nonaka said.

The ministry plans to submit the bill to the Diet during an extraordinary session that will start in October, he said.

Although the ministry has not released specific details of the proposed law, authorities would supposedly be permitted to engage in activities such as surveillance and carry out raids on the group when necessary, Nonaka said.

And if it becomes clear that the cult is ready to repeat its past crimes, the law would allow authorities to restrict its activities to some extent, he said.

The move follows a meeting of prefectural governors held Tuesday at which Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said the government was planning legal measures that would allow authorities to take action against Aum Shinrikyo.

Aum has recently been moving to establish itself in various parts of Japan but has encountered widespread resistance from local municipalities and residents.

The government has been studying legal measures that would allow authorities to take swift action against the cult, including a possible revision of the 1952 Antisubversive Activities Law.

But the state decided against seeking a revision because it would be difficult to obtain support in the Diet, Nonaka said.

In 1997, the Public Security Commission, an independent body, rejected the government's request to invoke the antisubversive law to disband Aum.

The commission said the cult no longer posed a threat to the public because it had been declared bankrupt as a religious corporation and most of the followers wanted by police had been arrested.

A number of Aum members, including its founder, Shoko Asahara, have been indicted in connection with cases that allegedly involved Aum, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which left 12 people dead and more than 3,000 injured.

Nonaka said it is his understanding that the Justice Ministry has judged that it would be more difficult to enact a revised 1952 law than a new law.

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