Japan OKs Laws To Restrain Cult

The Associated Press, December 3, 1999

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's upper house of Parliament approved two bills Friday aimed at clamping down on the doomsday cult accused of a deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways.

One measure allows the government to monitor groups that have committed mass murder, said Hiroshi Sasamoto, an official in the upper house's bill division. A target would be the Aum Shinrikyo cult, whose guru is on trial for the 1995 nerve gas attack that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

Under the law, Aum can be placed under surveillance and will be required to report on its activities every three months. The Justice Ministry will be able to inspect Aum Shinrikyo's facilities whenever it deems necessary.

The other law approved Friday will make it easier to seize the assets of organizations that commit mass murder, and use them to compensate victims, said Sasamoto.

The laws take effect Dec. 27. They are controversial in Japan because of the broad power held by police under the government in the years before and during World War II.

The bills were proposed after a resurgence in Aum Shinrikyo's activities, including recruiting efforts and events venerating the guru.

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