AUM Follower Files Damage Suit to Read Sermon Collection

Kyodo News Service/January 5, 2006

Tokyo -- A detained follower of the religious cult formerly known as AUM Shinrikyo has filed a damage suit seeking 1 million yen from the state as he has not been allowed to take the collections of the sermons by its founder Shoko Asahara into his prison cell, his lawyers said Thursday.

Koichi Kitamura, who is serving a life sentence in Gifu Prison over his involvement in the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, tried to bring in four volumes of the collection, but he was allowed to have only three as the prison regulations stipulate a prisoner can bring up to three books into his or her cell, according to the complaint.

The regulations note that certain publications, such as scriptures, dictionaries and textbooks, are not included in the three-volume limit.

Kitamura, 37, requested in March 2003 that the prison designate the collections as scriptures, but it rejected that request three months later, thereby preventing him from reading other books aside from the three, according to the complaint, filed with the Tokyo District Court.

In rejecting his request the prison said a scripture should belong to a designated religious organization and AUM, which has renamed itself Aleph, is not considered one.

Kitamura argues it is unconstitutional for the prison to discriminate against his religious beliefs by failing to recognize AUM's religious status and by limiting the books he can read accordingly.

Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death over various charges, including the sarin gas attack.

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