Doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo took a step toward oblivion Friday after the House of Councillors passed into law two controversial bills aimed at hobbling the religious group.
One of the bills - which pundits expect will be enacted by the end of the year to counter a possible AUM resurgence led by Fumihiro Joyu, the out- spoken cult mouthpiece due to be released from prison on Dec. 29 - will permit law enforcers to monitor organizations implicated in serious crimes, inspect their facilities and order them to report their activities every three months.
The other will permit the seizure of AUM assets to use them to compensate the victims of AUM-related crimes.
Justice Minister Hideo Usui hinted to reporters Friday that he may ask Public Security Examination Commission (PSEC) officials to inspect AUM facilities within 1999 now that they are permitted to do so.
Although neither of the bills mentioned AUM specifically, it was clear from the outset when they were first presented to the Diet on Nov. 2 that they were targeting the cult. AUM has admitted to carrying out the deadly March 1995 sarin gas attack that killed 12 and injured thousands and has been accused of a myriad of other crimes.
The first of the bills, which passed through the upper chamber with the support of the ruling coalition - the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and Komeito - and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, set restrictions on any organization that has committed "indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years" from acquiring land or facilities. It also requires organization members to file every three months a report including their name, address and assets. The bill also ensures the PSEC will be able to decide whether to inspect an organization's facilities upon a request from the Public Security Investigation Agency. If the PSEC approves an inspection, its officials will join police to probe shady facilities.
As for the second bill, it will make it easier to seize AUM assets so that they can be used to compensate the victims of the cult's crimes. It allows receivers to seize assets taken before an organization is declared bankrupt, even if the assets have been transferred to other entities.
AUM became a pariah in the wake of the Tokyo subway attack. It was declared bankrupt in 1996 and was a targeted to be disbanded under the Subversive Activities Prevention Law the following year. However, authorities decided not to activate the law, saying at the time that AUM no longer posed a threat to society.
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