Tokyo ward task force agrees to ban AUM


Mainichi Daily News, July 20, 1999

AUM Shinrikyo cult members will be barred from moving into Tokyo's Adachi-ku, the ward's government decided on Monday, officials said.

The anti-AUM task force at the ward office, headed by Mayor Tsunetoshi Suzuki and comprising department managers concerned about the doomsday cult, made the decision at its first meeting held on Monday.

"We will reject any such applications for the sake of public welfare. We know we might lose a suit that would be filed by the cult and that the rejection could violate the Constitution," a ward official said.

The nation's Constitution guarantees freedom to choose and change residence.

The task force deemed that it could reject applications for residence at AUM facilities under the Law of the Basic Resident Registers. It could do so because the facilities were not large enough to accommodate the large number of followers who have applied to reside in them.

It also decided to take the even more drastic step of rejecting residency applications from AUM cultists for any part of Adachi-ku.

About 180 cult members are estimated to be living in the ward. Adachi-ku is also home to the cult's headquarters, which includes its decision-making and public-relations divisions, as well as a cult computer factory.

Many cult members live in the ward because AUM founder Shoko Asahara is being detained at the Tokyo Detention Center near the ward.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is under indictment for various crimes, including the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing which killed 12 and sickened thousands.

AUM's sales of personal computers, which are estimated at 7 billion yen for last year, are viewed as an important source of revenue for the cult.

After the cult opened its key office in the ward in June last year, Adachi-ku residents began collecting signatures for a petition demanding that the cult be expelled from their area.

In the same petition, the local residents also urged the ward and Tokyo Metropolitan Government to buy the facility.

Suzuki, who became the ward chief after an election last month, made Adachi-ku a member of an anti-AUM liaison group made up of other local governments across the country.

The cult is currently facing an order to vacate the building that houses its central office. The building's owners were declared bankrupt on July 8 and a court-designated lawyer, Saburo Abe, plans to soon demand the cult's eviction.

AUM has agreed to vacate the building but has had difficulties finding a place to move to, according to public security authorities.

The central government is now considering new legislation to restrict AUM's activities. AUM's recent activities in various parts of the nation have sparked anxiety and hostility among local residents.

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