AUM group starts software firm, resumes ties with Russian followers

BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific - Political/November 27, 2001

Tokyo -- The AUM Shinrikyo religious group, accused of being responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, has started a software development firm and resumed ties with followers in Russia, AUM members said Tuesday [27 November].

About 40 AUM members are involved in software development and 21 of them financed the capital to form the firm in Tokyo in late August, the members made the announcement at a news conference at its facility in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. The company began full-scale operations this month, they said.

According to the members, profits from the firm will be used to pay compensation to victims of crimes involving the group.

In response, public security officials said they are keeping a close watch over new or assertive moves the group is making to gain new funds and followers.

Last year, a group of AUM-related firms, which had virtually halted its operations, was found to have received contracts to develop computer systems for government departments and major firms.

This month, Tokyo police arrested an AUM member on suspicion of breach of trust for stealing banking data from a firm which developed a computer system for a major financial group.

Also, the AUM members said they have resumed ties with AUM followers in Russia, with whom they had halted ties since the 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system. Three to four of its followers in Japan regularly interact with about 200 AUM followers in Russia who are mainly based in Moscow, the members said.

Also on Tuesday, the Tokyo High Court said it will hand down a ruling 29 January to former AUM member Koichi Kitamura, 33, who has appealed the Tokyo District Court's life sentence. He was charged with murder for his role in the subway attack as a driver of the AUM group.

AUM founder Shoko Asahara and a number of other members of AUM, now calling itself Aleph, have been tried for the subway attack in which 12 were killed and thousands injured, as well as a number of other crimes.

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