B.I. bans two Japanese cult leaders

Associated Press/April 20, 2004
By G. De Los Santos

The Bureau of Immigration (B.I.) Monday issued on Monday an order banning the entry of two Japanese suspected as members of a doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo that was responsible for the nerve-gas attack on a Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and injured hundreds of passengers in 1995.

Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr. listed Koichi Ninomiya and Hiroki Tsuno, alleged ranking members of the Aum Shinrikyo, on the bureau's blacklist following reports that the cult members were scheduled to visit Manila within the next few days.

Fernandez said that as a result of the blacklist order, the duo will be barred from entering the country should they proceed with their planned trip to Manila.

He disclosed that immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other ports of entry have been alerted to prevent the two Japanese from slipping into the country.

"Although the reports did not indicate that these two cult members planned to carry out terror attacks on Manila, the government cannot take chances by allowing the entry of aliens who are considered threats to our peace and security," said Fernandez.

The Department of Foreign Affairs informed the B.I. about the planned visit of Ninomiya and Tsuno in Manila, based on a report received from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

The embassy said the duo planned to take a Japan Airlines flight from Nagoya, Japan, to Manila anytime this week and stay here for two days.

Lawyer Gary Mendoza, B.I. immigration regulations chief, said both Ninomiya and Tsuno had previously visited Manila based on the bureau's computerized travel records.

Mendoza said Ninomiya was here only on March 12, 2004, and left the following day, while Tsuno arrived on August 2, 2002, and departed on August 29 of the same year.

The sarin-gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 is one of the deadliest terror attacks on Japanese history.

The doomsday cult is still considered a threat to society, using businesses to expand membership and remaining faithful to its convicted guru's violent teachings, the Japanese government said in a report Friday.

Followers of Aum Shinrikyo--whose former leader, Shoko Asahara, was sentenced to death in February--have set up more than 10 companies nationwide, including computer software makers, the Japan Public Security Investigation Agency reported.

The cult, which has changed its name to Aleph and remains under close surveillance by Japanese authorities, says the businesses are intended to raise funds to compensate victims of the subway gassing and other cult crimes.

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