Japanese Cult Admits Culpability

Families of Nerve Gas Victims Say Apology Comes Too Late

Washington Post, December 2, 1999
By Shigeyoshi Kimura

TOKYO, Dec. 1-The doomsday cult behind the deadly 1995 gassing in Tokyo's subway took responsibility today for a string of attacks and promised compensation, but victims' relatives dismissed it as a self-serving move.

"We now offer our sincere apology for the victims and their family members," acting Aum Shinrikyo leader Tatsuko Muraoka said in a statement, adding that the group will offer "as much compensation as possible." She declined to discuss details.

The group had not previously admitted its culpability in the sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 and sickened thousands in March 1995. Former guru Shoko Asahara is on trial for masterminding at least 17 crimes, including the subway attack, and a number of cult members have been convicted or are still on trial on numerous charges.

"As a result of watching the progress of trials on the so-called Aum incident, we have reached the conclusion that we can't deny the fact that some members of our religious group were involved," Muraoka said. A resurgence in the cult's activities, including recruiting and honoring Asahara, has set off protests across the nation, especially in towns where the cult has set up offices. The cult is believed to have 2,100 followers. A bill under consideration in parliament would provide for the monitoring of groups that have committed mass murder, such as Aum. It could become law by the end of the year.

Muraoka called the bill "regrettable," saying it would "trespass on people's fundamental rights."

Under the law, Aum will be placed under surveillance and must report its activities every three months. Police will be able to inspect its facilities at any time.

Tomoyuki Ooyama, whose daughter, son-in-law and grandson were killed in 1989 when Aum attacked their home, was quoted as telling the Kyodo News agency that he suspects cult members made their statement to escape police surveillance under the new law.

"There were many chances to offer an apology in past years if they really wanted to do so," he said.

Teruo Itoh's son was killed five years ago in the cult's first sarin attack, in Matsumoto, 112 miles northwest of Tokyo. "It is too late to hear such an apology," he told Kyodo.

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