Doomsday cult elects new leader

News 24/January 28, 2002

Tokyo -- The high-profile spokesperson for the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway system is set to assume the group's top post, it said on Monday.

The Aleph cult's five-member board of directors decided to appoint Fumihiro Joyu as its leader at a meeting held on January 21, group member Seiwa Ito said.

Joyu, 39, has long been considered the de facto leader of Aleph, previously known as Aum Shinrikyo.

In December 1999, he was released from prison after serving a three-year sentence for perjury and forgery. He was one of only a few senior Aum leaders not charged in connection with the 1999 nerve gas attack, which left 12 people dead and injured thousands.

Joyu will take over the group effective January 30, Ito said. The term is three years and renewable. Aleph's current leader, Tatsuko Muraoka, 51, will step down and assume a newly created post below Joyu, Ito said.

The cult's founder, Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is currently on trial for allegedly masterminding the subway attack.

Japanese police have conducted crackdowns on the group since the subway gassing. Aleph now has 1 100 members, Ito said. Most of them are former Aum Shinrikyo members.

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