Senior Aum member admits crimes in letter

Yomiuri Shimbun, October 18, 1999

In a letter, a senior member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult said that a series of heinous crimes were perpetrated by the cult in accordance with the wishes of cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto, it was learned Sunday.

This is the first time that a current leading member of Aum has admitted the cult's involvement in a series of crimes, including the sarin gas attacks in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and on the Tokyo subway system, as well as the murder of a Yokohama lawyer and his family.

But the senior member ruled out compensation for the victims and bereaved families, saying in the letter that the cult members should practice religious training rather than offering compensation.

According to lawyers of the defense counsel for victims of alleged Aum crimes, the letter was written by a senior male member of the so-called presbyter section of the cult, and was sent this summer to a former cult member held at the Tokyo Detention House in reply to a letter asking several questions about Aum's involvement in the crimes.

The former member, one of those standing accused of being involved in the Matsumoto sarin attack, has appealed to the Supreme Court after being given prison sentences by both district and high courts.

The publicity section of the cult released a statement regarding the letter saying that the cult had never given the former member its formal view of the crimes, and that they were investigating whether a senior member of its presbyter section had sent a personal letter to the him or not. In his letter, the former member first asked whether Aum was actually involved in the series of crimes, to which the senior member explicitly replied that it was.

The former member then asked whether the cult could explain why the crimes had been committed. The senior member replied, "It was the will of the guru (that led to the crimes)," indicating that Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, masterminded the crimes.

The former member also asked whether he should regard the crimes as "acts of evil," to which the senior member replied that only Matsumoto could answer that question.

In his reply, the senior member also mentioned that the agony of the victims should be seen as "something like the death of a child in a dream." Lastly, in reply to a question about the accused Aum members who have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in connection with the crimes, the senior member said, "They are the blessed ones who have experienced great difficulties."

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