Aum to release statement on sarin gas attacks

Daily Yomiuri, Sept 29, 1999

The Aum Supreme Truth cult is likely to release a statement soon on the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which left 12 people dead and 3,794 injured, and on another sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, one of the leaders of the cult said Monday in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The cult has denied responsibility for the attacks. According to Hiroshi Araki, deputy director of the cult's public relations department, leaders of the cult are preparing the statement, which may change the cult's long-held position on the incident and admit that followers were responsible for the attacks.

The cult's acting representative, Tatsuko Muraoka, 49, will hold a press conference to release the statement and information on the relocation of the cult's public relations and judicial affairs departments, Araki said. According to Aum, the cult has kept silent on the attacks in view of the lack of evidence linking it with the incidents, and will continue to do so unless cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, initiates an explanation.

However, during his first court appearance on Sept. 22 as a witness at the trial of a former follower, Matsumoto testified that the cult's former intelligence chief, Yoshihiro Inoue, proposed the attack on the subway system and discussed the plan with Hideo Murai, who headed the cult's science and technology ministry.

Araki said that under the circumstances the cult should admit that some followers were responsible for the gas attacks.

The cult's supreme decision-making council, which comprises six elders including Muraoaka, is working on the contents of the statement, and there are believed to be opinions within the cult that it should apologize for the attacks, the sources said.

Referring to a request by Saburo Abe, a court-appointed lawyer and bankruptcy trustee, to change the cult's name, Araki said that some followers had already proposed new names for Aum.

He also said that if a decision had been made on the relocation of Aum's Tokyo headquarters by the time the statement was released, the cult would also announce the new site.

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