The current leader of the Aum Supreme Truth cult has claimed that from remarks made by the cult's founder, Chizuo Matsumoto, he knew Aum was behind such incidents as the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system and the murder of a lawyer and his family.
Fumihiro Joyu, 43, said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun made before the Supreme Court rejected a special appeal Friday by Matsumoto, that Matsumoto, 51, made remarks to this effect immediately after the incidents occurred.
At the time of the incidents, Joyu was the public face of the cult, regularly appearing on television and claiming the cult had nothing to do with the attacks. But he admitted in the interview that he lied because he did not want to break up the cult.
On Nov. 4, 1989, six Aum executive members murdered lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his wife and son.
A few days after the murder, when the disappearance of the three was in the news, Joyu said he asked Matsumoto about the cult's involvement, to which Matsumoto is said to have replied, "You seem to know what happened." Joyu said in the interview that he can only interpret what Matsumoto said as meaning, "You seem to know that they were murdered by the cult."
Joyu was in Russia when the sarin attacks occurred on March 20, 1995. A few days after the attacks, former Aum executive member Kiyohide Hayakawa, 57, who is currently appealing to the Supreme Court against a death sentence handed down by a lower court, came to Russia and allegedly told Joyu that the cult committed the attacks.
After returning to Japan at the start of April that year, Joyu spoke with Hideo Murai, an executive member of the cult, in a Tokyo apartment rented by Aum used for preparing television appearances. He said they talked about hiding the true nature of the plant Satian 7 being used for producing sarin. They decided on saying the plant produced agricultural chemicals.
Murai was murdered on April 23 that year.
Matsumoto allegedly said to Joyu in Kamikuishikimura (now Fujikawaguchikomachi), Yamanashi Prefecture, that the sarin attacks committed by the cult were an evil act.
Joyu also admitted he knew about the plans, saying it was his role to coordinate a plan to spread anthrax, and the idea to produce sarin came about in the summer of 1993.
In the interview he apologized deeply, explaining he thought that if he publicized the cult well, it would not break up.
Joyu plans to establish a new religious order next year combining Buddhist teachings and yoga, and said Matsumoto is not divine.
His group continues to compensate victims and the families of the bereaved, and revealed he was thinking about opening the order's facilities for public use.