3,200 seek expulsion of AUM members from Gunma

Oct. 24, 1999

MAEBASHI, Japan, Oct. 24, 1999 (Kyodo) -- About 3,200 local residents joined by Diet members held a protest in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture, on Sunday demanding that AUM Shinrikyo cult members move out of the city.

About 130 AUM members are believed to be living in two Fujioka facilities.

The protest rally and subsequent demonstration parade drew a record crowd in the city, according to Fujioka officials.

Diet members elected from Gunma constituencies also joined the rally, explaining efforts to enact a set of laws to restrain the cult.

Nobuo Kubo, chairman of the city assembly, read out a declaration seeking AUM's withdrawal from the facilities in the city. He also warned participants of the continued threat posed by the cult despite its announcement last month to suspend all external activities.

The protesters later marched to a former printing factory and the house of the factory's former owner, where the AUM members began living in June.

Three small cells apparently intended for solitary confinement were found at the former factory during a police raid earlier this month in connection with the alleged confinement of a female AUM member at another cult facility in Nagano Prefecture last year.

Two current and former AUM members were arrested late last month on suspicion of holding the female member against her will at the Nagano facility, but they were released Wednesday due to a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 residents in Tokyo's Toshima Ward and neighboring Itabashi Ward gathered Sunday to protest the cult's plan to relocate its headquarters to its training hall in Toshima Ward.

Last month, the group vacated a building in Adachi Ward, also in Tokyo, that had served as its headquarters, and announced to temporarily move its central functions to the training hall in Toshima Ward.

The protesters adopted a resolution demanding early legislation preventing the cult from conducting activities and demanding the central government aid residents suing the cult.

AUM founder Shoko Asahara is on trial for his role in at least 17 major crimes, including ordering murders and masterminding the March 1995 subway sarin gas attack that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500.

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