Fumihiro Joyu, the controversial leader of AUM Shinrikyo, broke a 10-month public silence Monday to speak out against plans to place the doomsday cult under continued surveillance by public safety officials.
Joyu said that Aleph, as the cult is now calling itself, practiced a different type of religion to that which had been espoused by AUM.
He added that an application by the Public Security Investigation Agency to continue surveillance of the cult for an additional three years once the current inspection period runs out in January created the wrong impressions.
"The Public Security Investigation Agency's application was made using theories that exceed the bounds of common sense," Joyu, speaking at a news conference for the first time since February, said. "If surveillance is continued, it will violate the human rights of followers and instill in citizens an unwarranted fear. The cult poses absolutely no definite danger, nor has any proof of its wrongdoing been presented."
Joyu continued, apparently trying to alleviate fears that despite the cult's revised public image it is still strongly influenced by its founder, accused mass murderer Shoko Asahara.
"He is gradually becoming merely a figure from the past," Joyu said, referring to his guru. "We are now using rites different from those used at the time of the incident (the lethal gassing of the Tokyo subway system) and we will from now on follow teachings centering around myself."
Under a law regulating the activities of organizations, the Public Security Investigation Agency is permitted to supervise AUM's activities until the end of next month. On Dec. 2, the agency applied to the Public Security Examination Commission for permission to extend the surveillance period by three years.
Earlier Monday, the commission gave AUM until Christmas Eve to offer an opinion about the agency's application.