Court rules gov't right to place killer cult under probation

Mainichi Shimbun, Japan/October 30, 2004

The public security authorities broke no law when they invoked legislation controlling organizations involved in indiscriminate mass murders to place the AUM Shinrikyo cult under probation, a court has ruled.

The Tokyo District Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the cult that now calls itself Aleph demanding revocation of the Public Security Commission's decision to continue to place the cult under probation.

"It is recognized that the cult could commit indiscriminate mass murders, causing anxiety among residents of areas (where the cult's facilities are located)," the presiding judge said in handing down the decision.

The commission hailed the ruling. "The ruling is appropriate and fair. The Public Security Commission will continue to cautiously watch the development of AUM Shinrikyo," Kozo Fujita, chairman of the commission said.

The cult criticized the ruling, but said it wants to try not to cause anxiety to the public. "The ruling is obviously wrong in that it has determined that we pose danger to the public without specific reasons. We would like to continue our efforts to avoid causing anxiety to the public."

The cult was involved in a serious of crimes, including a sarin gas terror attack on Tokyo subway trains in March 1995 that left 12 people dead and thousands of others ill, and murder of anti-AUM lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their infant son in 1989. Its founder, Shoko Asahara, was sentenced to death in February this year for masterminding the crimes, and has appealed the ruling to a higher court.

The court recognized that cult Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had influence on the cult's policy as of January 2003 when the commission decided to continue to place the cult under probation.

Moreover, the court pointed out that reforms AUM Shinrikyo carried out at the time were apparently aimed at having the commission abandon its plans to place it under probation, that numerous followers who were jailed have returned to the cult, and that the cult's organization lacks transparency.

The court then concluded that the restrictions placed on the cult and its members under the law are necessary and reasonable, and do not affect its religious activities, dismissing the cult's claim that the probation infringes on freedom of religion and is unconstitutional.

In June 2001, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the law could be invoked only in cases where the organizations concerned have actually begun preparations for indiscriminate mass murders.

In the latest ruling, however, the same court criticized the earlier ruling. "If the law were interpreted in such a way, it would be extremely difficult to prevent a recurrence of an indiscriminate mass murder, and would render the law ineffective."

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