Japanese government approves law to keep eye on cult

AP, Nov 3, 1999

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's government has approved a bill meant to rein in the doomsday cult accused in the deadly sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subways, and the country's Parliament also was likely to adopt the measure.

The bill, approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, would provide for the monitoring of groups that have committed mass murder. One target was the Aum Shinrikyo cult, whose guru is on trial in the March 1995 gassing.

Other members of the cult -- whose name means Supreme Truth -- are also suspected in the gassing that killed 12 people and sickened thousands, as well as several other murders. Some have already been convicted.

The bill was almost certain to win approval because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party controls the majority in both houses of Parliament.

Under the law, which would take effect 20 days after passage, Aum would be placed under surveillance and would be required to report its activities every three months. Police would be able to inspect its facilities at any time.

Such control over citizens' groups is controversial in Japan because of the power held by police under the militarist government of the years before and during World War II.

The bill follows a resurgence in cult activities, including recruiting and honoring the guru, that have set off protests across the nation, especially in towns where the cult has set up offices.

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