Cult Members Arrested in Japan

The Associated Press, Sept 22, 1999

TOKYO (AP) - Police early Wednesday raided a facility run by the Japanese doomsday cult and arrested two key officials for allegedly confining a female member.

Masahiro Guntani, 30, was the administrator of the cult's facility in Kisofukushima, 85 miles west of Tokyo, said a police spokesman on condition of anonymity. Ryuji Shimotori, 37, was identified as his deputy.

About 200 police officers raided the facility. There were about 20 cult followers inside and they were being questioned over their treatment by the cult, the spokesman said.

The cult has been regrouping and expanding its membership even though its guru, Shoko Asahara, has been charged with masterminding the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

Guntani allegedly confined the 29-year-old woman from late March through early April of 1998, the spokesman said. The victim was kept at the facility with her hands and feet bound by adhesive tape and sometimes had her head pushed into a water tank until she lost consciousness, he added.

The woman fled the facility that April and protected by local residents. Three other female followers have run away from the facility over the past two years, police said.

Separately, the cult said Wednesday it will hold a press conference later in the day about its activities.

The announcement comes one day after Japanese media reported the cult may change its name and admit that its members were behind the subway attack.

Japanese newspapers called the move an attempt to soften resistance to the cult setting up facilities in communities around Japan.

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