Papers call for tight grip on Japan's Aum Supreme Truth cult

AFP, Sept 30, 1999

TOKYO, Sept 30, 1999 (AFP) - Tokyo should tighten its grip on the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, the Japanese press said Thursday, with one conservative daily calling for the breakup of the group.

"There is an urgent need to curb the cult's activities under clear legal measures and regulations, before problems emerge, to ease public anxieties," Japan's largest daily Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial.

The renewed outcry for vigilance over the cult came as police Wednesday arrested two disciples suspected of imprisoning a woman follower. "There is no difference between the latest action and earlier ones by the cult," the Yomiuri said.

The conservative daily Sankei Shimbun said Wednesday's arrests "shows the Aum has not changed at all."

"The only solution is either the cult's voluntary breakup or invoking the Subversive Activities Prevention Act to outlaw it," the Sankei said. Cult members shocked the world when they spread Nazi-invented Sarin gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring thousands. The Aum escaped being outlawed under the law in January 1997 when a legal panel ruled there was no reason to believe it could still pose a threat to society.

But since then the group has boosted its financial base with computer sales and is now regrouping, with some 1,500 followers at more than 30 facilities in Tokyo and other cities, according to the public security investigation agency.

Public anger against the cult has mounted as its size has grown and followers move into often hostile communities. Police have also raided many of its properties investigating allegations of forgery.

In response to growing public worry over the cult, the government planned to submit new legislation effectively banning the doomsday cult from expanding its membership and facilities.

In a rare news conference, the cult said Wednesday it would cut back its activities because of the threatened government clamp down. The group will stop street campaigns and seminars and cease handing out leaflets. With the latest arrests, the Mainichi Shimbun said the public would further press the government to take legal measures against the Aum.

"The cult remains extremely closed and we know almost nothing about the organization," the daily said. "Police must uncover what is taking place within the cult."

Cult leader Shoko Asahara and dozens of his followers are being tried on charges ranging from fraud to murder related to the gas attack, as well as the murders of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family.

"The critical issue is the cult's relationship with Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara) and his dangerous doctrine," the Yomiuri said. "Until this is clarified, there is a need to remain vigilant in monitoring Aum," it said.

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