More than 60 former Aum Supreme Truth members who seceded from the cult have set up at least five sects that engage in activities based on the doctrine of Aum's founder Chizuo Matsumoto, police said Thursday.
Followers were continuing to practice some of the cult's doctrines even though the group changed its name to "Aleph" to weaken its association with Matsumoto following Aum's sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 and other incidents.
The Metropolitan Police Department and other authorities are watching the groups' activities closely as the date approaches for the Tokyo District Court to hand down its ruling on charges, including murder, against Matsumoto.
The factional groups are led by former cult members, but act independently of the Aum Supreme Truth cult. Police confirmed the existence of three such sects in Tokyo and two in the Chubu region.
According to police, a group in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, led by a 39-year-old woman who had been an Aum member, comprises 30 members who use materials, including brochures, that refer to Matsumoto's teachings.
The group's leader attended the closing remarks of Matsumoto's trial at the district court in October to hear his argument.
According to sources, it was likely that the other four groups were practicing activities based on brochures, books, videotapes and cassette tapes containing Aum Supreme Truth's doctrine.
A 45-year-old man in Utsunomiya, who had been a member of the cult and was arrested by the MPD in September on suspicion of forging a private document with a signature and seal, headed a 10-member group, but it dissolved recently. The man allegedly forged letters of attorney to apply for a family register without permission from customers when he was selling gravestones.
He joined the Aum Supreme Truth cult in 1992 and became part of its intelligence section. However, he left the cult in 1995 and opened a shop in Tochigi Prefecture selling gravestones.
The MPD seized account books from those who had associated with the man and found that, when he left Aum, he received about 10 million yen from Matsumoto before the cult founder's arrest. The MPD also confiscated pictures of Matsumoto, videotapes for ascetic practices and brochures from people who had connections with the man.
The MPD believes he was practicing Aum Supreme Truth cult doctrines with 10 other former members who frequented his shop.
The police confirmed that at least 630 Aum members were currently active in Tokyo.
Aum closed its office in Moscow, but opened a liaison office there in 2001, which has a membership of about 300. In 1999, Russian authorities uncovered a plot in which armed Russian followers planned to free Matsumoto.