Diet group tries to crack down on AUM activities


Mainichi Daily News, July 27, 1999

An interparty group of Diet members has compiled a bill intended to curb the activities of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult, the Mainichi has learned.

The group, which is headed by Koki Ishii of the Democratic Party of Japan, was formed in 1995 to discuss cult-related issues.

The bill would allow prefectural public safety commissions to designate organizations suspected of legally questionable activities and subject them to official scrutiny.

In order to be designated for scrutiny, the bill requires that a suspect organization must have "posed a threat to the well-being of the general public during the past 15 years" - a phrase that is generally viewed as a thinly veiled reference to AUM Shinrikyo.

The bill would give prefectural public safety commissions the power to prohibit designated organizations from taking the property of members against their will in the form of "offerings."

The commissions would also be granted the authority to declare that an organization's internal rules, such as forbidding members from leaving or restricting contact with the outside world, to be illegal.

The bill proposes maximum punishments of 12 months in prison and fines of up to 1 million yen for offenders.

Police would be also given the authority to search the property of a designated organization to ensure that it is in compliance with the law.

Members of Ishii's interparty group say the bill would protect the freedom of cult followers and could prevent future tragedies. They point out that the crimes attributed to AUM were carried out by individuals who had been brainwashed and cut off from society.

According to the group, the bill will be introduced during the current Diet session.

Members said they shelved a plan to introduce another bill that would force a chain of AUM-related computer shops to forfeit their profits to compensate the victims of cult attacks.

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