Agency seeks to keep up Aum surveillance

The Japan Times/November 29, 2011

Kyodo -- The Public Security Intelligence Agency requested Monday that Aum Shinrikyo and a splinter group be kept under surveillance for another three years, asserting the groups remain under the strong influence of cult founder Shoko Asahara and are still capable of mass murder.

The request, submitted to the Public Security Examination Commission, covers Aum, which carried out two sarin gas attacks in the 1990s and which renamed itself Aleph in 2000, as well as Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light), led by senior Aum member Fumihiro Joyu.

First imposed in January 2000 and extended three times so far under a 1999 law to restrict groups that have committed indiscriminate mass murder, the measure allows the agency's inspectors to carry out on-site checks and obliges the doomsday cults to report the names and addresses of key members.

Before issuing its decision, the commission will hear from the groups.

According to the agency, Aleph has about 1,300 members and Hikari no Wa about 200. The groups claim another 140 or so followers regrouped in Russia and they say they have added a combined 200 members since January.

The agency believes that the members' devotion to Asahara, who is on death row for the heinous crimes committed by Aum, is growing as Aleph celebrates his birthday and displays photographs of him at its facilities, and Hikari no Wa maintains similar ascetic practices.

The agency didn't include the effective end to judicial proceedings for senior Aum figures last week in the reasons for its extension request, but Director General Michiaki Ozaki said that "it is impossible to entirely predict the groups' moves from now on so we would like to watch developments carefully to be able to respond to all situations."

Recently, both groups have been citing the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in their preaching and telling members such an event will happen again if they don't engage in their religious practices, the agency said.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death in 2004 for masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes.

Twelve other senior Aum members have been given the death sentence and all rulings, including those involving Asahara, had been finalized by the Supreme Court as of Nov. 21.

The Tokyo subway sarin gas attack killed 13 people and injured thousands of others, while a sarin attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, killed eight people.

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