AUM-linked firm kicked out after anticult campaign


Kyodo/May 26, 1999

GIFU, Japan -- The town of Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, has ousted a firm related to the AUM Shinrikyo cult, many of whose senior members are accused of launching the 1995 gas attack on Tokyo's subway system, town officials said.

A landowner who leased a plot of land in Shirakawa to a company with AUM links canceled the lease after local residents launched an anti-AUM campaign, the officials said.

Many Japanese local governments are facing similar disputes between locals and AUM, as the cult keeps trying to acquire land for new facilities.

The AUM-linked company placed six containers on the land, measuring 1,200 square meters, in early May, and started using them for storage, the officials said.

Residents later learned that the company is producing food for cult members, and started a movement to oppose the cult.

The landowner canceled the contract Monday, and reimbursed the company for the containers, the officials said.

"It was good that the problem has been settled early, because the residents were worried," one official said.

In 1997, the Public Security Commission, an independent body, rejected the government's request to disband AUM, whose founder Shoko Asahara has been charged with numerous crimes, including murder and attempted murder in the fatal nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

The government recently decided to consider new legislation to restrict AUM activities. The decision was prompted by recent signs indicating that the group is making a comeback, and the recent return to the group of members who had finished serving prison terms.

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