Cult members to stand trial in Russia

Itar-Tass via COMTEX/July 17, 2001
By Yelena Dorofeyeva

Moscow -- Four members from the Russian branch of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, who were arrested in the Maritime Territory, will soon stand trial, a law-enforcement source told Itar-Tass.

Three of the sect members -- Moscow residents Sigachyov, Voronov and Tupeiko -- were arrested in July 2000 in the Russian Far East as they were trying to cross the border by boat. Police seized from them arms, ammunition and explosives. Another Aum Shinrikyo member, identified as Yurchuk, 29, was arrested five days ago.

A criminal investigation into their case has been completed under the articles covering terrorism and illegal manufacture and possession of arms, the source said. Investigators established that the group were headed for Japan to carry out a number of terrorist attacks, "in order to force the Japanese government into freeing Aum Shinrikyo leader, Shoko Asahara."

They had prepared a shelter for him in a small settlement in the Maritime Territory. This group was also involved in the murder and robbery of a woman in Moscow in July 1999.

Although Aum Shinrikyo has lost much of appeal in Russia since the group's terrorist attack in a Tokyo subway, several uncoordinated groups survive in Russia and in former Soviet republics.

Law-enforcement officials say they operate in Moscow, the Krasnodar territory, in central Russia and Ukraine. Some groups, such as the Gurya-Samadzha sect in Simferopol, have spun off from Aum Shinrikyo and promote their own theories.

The largest of Aum Shinrikyo's compounds in Russia is located in the village of Yeltsy, Yuryev-Polsky district, Vladimir region, which has three modern cottages, and is expected to commission a hotel and recreation center soon.

The law-enforcement source said these group operate legally and cannot be prosecuted unless they break law. The law on the freedom of consciousness which introduces the notion of "a religious group without the legal entity right" allows such sects to act without registration and disseminate their "teaching."

Recently, Russian Aum groups have been making contacts with Fumihiro Jioyu who replaced the jailed Shoko Asahara as leader of the sect in Japan. At present, Japan's Aum Shinrikyo goes under the name of Aleph.

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