Aum surveillance extended for 3 years

Kyodo News/January 21, 2003

Tokyo -- The Public Security Examination Commission on Monday extended the surveillance period on the Aum Shinrikyo cult for another three years as requested by the Public Security Investigation Agency, commission officials said.

The commission, headed by Kozo Fujita, a former chief judge of the Hiroshima High Court, said the cult is still capable of committing indiscriminate mass murder, which it attempted on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

The agency had asked the commission to extend the surveillance period beyond Jan 31, when the current surveillance authority expires. The decision will be delivered to the agency and the cult by the end of this week, the officials said.

The decision is expected to be published in the government gazette next week. The publication will make the decision effective.

The cult, renamed Aleph in January 2000, has said it will file a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court to seek the annulment of the extension.

The officials said the decision is based on the view that Aum founder Shoko Asahara, who is accused of masterminding the sarin gas attack and is still on trial, continues to wield power over the cult.

Continued surveillance is thus deemed necessary until the threat of indiscriminate mass killings by the cult is completely eliminated, they added.

The commission will discuss later whether to include in its official paper reasons other than that Asahara still wields power over the cult and that the group still poses the threat of mass killing.

In response to the security agency's request on Dec 2 for permission to extend the surveillance, Aum submitted a petition on Dec. 24 calling for the agency's request to be denied.

Meeting with members of the security commission on Jan 8, Fumihiro Joyu, a former senior Aum official who now heads the cult, called on the commission to end the surveillance.

Joyu and others representing the cult argued that Aum has now taken steps to prevent any further attacks and that surveillance is therefore no longer necessary.

In making the case for extending the surveillance, the security agency submitted some 400 pieces of evidence to prove the sect remains a public threat.

Acting under the current surveillance authority, the agency has kept 88 Aum facilities in 16 prefectures under watch since February 2000.

Asahara, 47, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has been on trial since April 1996 for his role in the March 20, 1995 subway attack that left 12 people dead and thousands injured, as well as other crimes attributed to Aum. He has denied the charges.

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