Renamed Aum Shinrikyo cult awarded damages, apology from Tokyo government

The Japan Daily Press/January 16, 2013

The Aleph religious group, previously known as Aum Shinrikyo, has won its battle in court against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government after the Tokyo District Court ordered the latter to pay the group 1 million yen (approx. $11,350) in damages and to issue a written apology. The court denied Aleph's claim of 50 million yen ($567,000) in damages and its demand to require Katsuhiko Ikeda, Metropolitan Police Department head in 2010, to personally pay damages and to apologize.

The case sprang forth from an investigative report issued by the police regarding the March 1995 attempted murder of the National Police Agency Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu, which suggested that the cult perpetrated. No one was indicted for the attack, and Kunimatsu survived and even served as ambassador to Switzerland from 1999 to 2002. On March 30, 2010, after the statute of limitation on the attack has ended, Tokyo police publicly made available the report by putting its outline on the agency's website for about a month.

In the judgment, presiding Judge Hiroshi Ishii pointed out that the report was a violation of the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and therefore illegal. The Tokyo police argued that they did not cause defamation to Aleph per se because it is considered a different group from Aum. But, the court did not agree. It ruled that even though this is partly true, the general public still associates Aleph with Aum, and continues to be regarded as its successor. Hence, the report was damaging to the group.

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