TOKYO - Japan's Home Affairs Minister Takeshi Noda said Tuesday that the government should consider invoking a draconian subversion law to outlaw the doomsday cult accused of the 1995 deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways.
"At the time when the decision was made not to apply the Antisubversive Activities Law, we decided to wait and see for a little while whether there remained fears that the cult could commit more crimes,'' Noda told a news conference.
"But since then they have insisted that they remain the same as before. Therefore, it is worth seriously considering this issue again,'' he said.
The harsh law, promulgated during Japan's labor and leftist turmoil after World War Two, was considered so controversial that it has never been applied to a group.
In January 1997, Japan's Public Security Commission decided not to outlaw Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), accused of carrying out the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack in March 1995. In the attack 12 people were killed and more than 5,000 passengers were injured.
At the time, the commission ruled that the doomsday cult no longer posed a threat to Japanese society as the group was declared bankrupt and nearly all key members were in police custody and undergoing lengthy trials.
Japanese authorities say the cult has about 2,100 followers at present, sharply down from some 10,000 at the time of the subway gassing.
If outlawed, members of the group will be banned from holding meetings, producing publications or conducting any business that could be construed as a group activity.