Aum facility raided over Nagano confinement

Kyodo News, October 17, 1999

NAGANO, Japan, Oct. 17, 1999 (Kyodo) -- Police on Sunday searched a facility related to the AUM Shinrikyo cult in Nagano Prefecture in connection with the alleged confinement of a female member of the cult at a separate facility in the same prefecture last year.

The police confiscated 10 items, including floppy disks and personal computers, police sources said. They found an altar and photographs of the cult's top members.

The searched facility, a two-story wooden house, is located in the village of Minamiaiki and was purchased by a male follower in May last year.

The house is said to be a training center for a company based in Tokyo's Nakano Ward that is related to the cult's judicial affairs division.

AUM member Masahiro Guntani, 30, was arrested Sept. 29 on suspicion of confining the 29-year-old female member at an AUM facility in the town of Kisofukushima in Nagano Prefecture for about 10 days spanning late March and early April 1998.

When police raided the Kisofukushima facility the same day, they confiscated several documents in which followers appeared to have given their approval for being placed in solitary confinement at the facility, police sources said.

Police suspect, however, that the documents were not genuine and that they were drawn up at the instruction of the cult's judicial affairs division as a cover-up.

According to Minamiaiki municipal officials, the AUM facility in the village had previously been used as a dwelling for six or seven people but is now normally used only on weekends and public holidays, when several people gather there.

The male follower who obtained the facility has reportedly told the village government that he has left the cult and the facility is no longer connected with AUM.

Guntani, manager of the Kisofukushima facility, and Ryuji Shimotori, 37, a doctor and former senior member of the cult, are suspected of confining the female member for about 10 days after she tried to leave the cult facility in late March 1998.

The two men allegedly bound the woman's hands and legs with adhesive tape and submerged her in a bath until she lost consciousness. Shimotori quit the cult in May this year, police said.

On Sept. 29, the cult announced it would suspend its external activities and provisionally halt the use of its name from October.

However, the cult is still being shunned by local communities around the country due to a series of indictments and convictions of members in connection with serious crimes, including the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

Its efforts to set up facilities in various parts of Japan continue to draw protests from local residents.

AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for his alleged role in at least 17 major crimes, including ordering murders and masterminding the attack on the Tokyo subway system, in which 12 people died and more than 5,500 were injured.

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