Tokyo -- The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday [13 June] rejected a request by the Aum Shinrikyo cult to void a decision by the Public Security Examination Commission to place the sect under surveillance by security authorities. The ruling marks the first legal decision involving a December 1999 law that allows the Justice Ministry's Public Security Investigation Agency to monitor any organization that has committed "indiscriminate mass murder during the past 10 years," and lets police inspect facilities of such groups without a warrant.
Aum filed the suit in February 2000, claiming there was no realistic danger of it committing indiscriminate mass murder and that the surveillance was unconstitutional. The sect plans to appeal the ruling, according to Aum sources. Police say Aum was responsible for the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which claimed the lives of 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Masayuki Fujiyama said, "It is rational to decide to disclose the situation of activities by an organization that carried out indiscriminate mass murder." In rejecting Aum's request, Fujiyama said, "If (a decision is) implemented only when there is real danger that preparations (for indiscriminate mass murder) are to restart, it does not run counter to constitutional guarantees such as freedom of religion."
Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said the ruling is appropriate, but ample consideration must be given to assessing the threat of danger. "As the Justice Ministry, we would like to continue to make full efforts to resolve the anxiety of citizens about the Aum Shinrikyo cult," Moriyama said. Fujiyama also said the influence of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 46, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is "extremely heavy and deep" when considering "the gravity of the extraordinary crime Aum committed and the fact that preparations were conducted secretly."
"It could never be thought that (the cult) would disappear overnight or that it would considerably weaken," Fujiyama said in concluding that the decision to place Aum under surveillance was appropriate. "The cult did not make strong efforts to truly depart from the influence of Matsumoto and there was a possibility that (it) would begin preparations for indiscriminate mass murder by channelling funds for compensating victims into rearming itself depending on the intentions of Matsumoto," he added.
But Fujiyama said there were doubts about the commission's argument that Matsumoto is still Aum's head and that he continues to hold dangerous doctrines. In January last year, the commission decided to allow security authorities to put Aum under surveillance for up to three years.