Tokyo -- Investigators found a picture of AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara in the apartment of Fumihiro Joyu, the cult's leading member, during a police raid Tuesday on the apartment in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, the police said.
According to the police, Joyu's apartment is the religious group's de facto headquarters and the raid was carried out in connection with an AUM member's suspected false residence registration with the Sumida Ward office.
The police said the finding of the picture of Asahara indicates that Joyu, 38, and other AUM members still worship the founder, who is being tried on a number of charges, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Joyu told investigators that he uses the picture for religious seminars, the police said. Under new rules of the religious group, which now calls itself Aleph, pictures of Asahara, 46, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, should not be put up at altars and other places.
The group's regulations on Asahara say, ''We do not deify him or see him as absolute as to justify the crimes. But we purely evaluate and succeed to the religious components.''
In the police search of nine locations, some 1,700 videocassettes were found, including ones containing sermons by Asahara, the police said. According to the police, a 38-year-old AUM member submitted to the Sumida Ward Office a false residence registration on March 22, maintaining that he had moved to an apartment in the ward from Ishikawa Prefecture, even though he does not live in the apartment.
The police said the cult is probably involved in the case because it instructs followers to inform it whenever they transfer their residence registry.