Japan Subway Cult Will Freeze Activities

Reuters, Sept 29, 1999

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese doomsday cult accused of a 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways said Wednesday it would close its branches, stop recruiting new members and cease using its name "Aum Shinri Kyo" (Supreme Truth Sect).

But the cult did not offer an anticipated public apology for the incident which killed 12 and left thousands ill, saying only it was considering its future in light of recent comments by cult leader Shoko Asahara. Cult representative Tatsuko Muraoka told a packed news conference late Wednesday that the group had decided to suspend most of its activities because of strong public opposition and a recent police crackdown that had already forced them to close branch offices earlier this month.

Media reports had said Tuesday that the cult might reverse its previous stand denying connection with the gassing incident after cult leader Shoko Asahara, on trial for total of 17 charges, told the court last week that plans for the subway gassing had been discussed by cult members. Asahara said he had been "asleep" during those discussions.

But Muraoka said only that the cult wanted to consider its future in light of Asahara's latest remarks.

Public pressure and police crackdowns on the cult have intensified in recent months amidst fears that Aum was staging a comeback. Residents living close to sect facilities have demanded they leave the neighborhood and the government is considering enacting bills to curb its activities.

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