TOKYO -- The government is considering a new law that would specifically restrict the activities of AUM Shinrikyo to counter the cult's moves to set up offices in local areas, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Friday.
"Several LDP (the Liberal Democratic Party) legislators are considering introducing a legislation targeting at AUM Shinrikyo," Nonaka said at a regular news conference.
"The cult is not in a situation in which its followers would become active and immediately commit crimes. However, we must realize the fact that the cult's recent moves are causing anxiety among many people," the chief government spokesman said.
"We are considering carefully whether we could obtain consent of the public, as well as other political parties for the revision," he said.
In 1997, the Public Security Commission, an independent body, rejected the government's request to invoke the 1952 Antisubversive Activities Law and disband the cult.
At the time, the commission said AUM no longer posed a threat to the public as it had been declared bankrupt and most of its followers wanted by police had been arrested.
The cult's founder, Shoko Asahara, has been on trial in connection with a number of crimes, including murder and attempted murder in a 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. A number of current and former AUM members have been arrested, and some convicted, over the subway attack and a series of other crimes.
More recently, the government has decided to consider new laws aimed at restricting AUM activities. The decision was prompted by signs that the cult is starting to make a comeback and that some AUM members have been finishing their prison terms to return to cult activities.
Despite a police crackdown following the nerve gas attack, AUM has been establishing offices and other facilities in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, 20 local governments and one prefectural administrative union plan to hold a rally in Tokyo on July 1 to protest the cult's moves to set up offices in local municipalities, group members said Friday.
The rally is aimed at urging the central government to further restrict AUM's activities through the creation of new laws, they said. The group also wants to exchange information on cult facilities nationwide and countermeasures taken by each municipal government against AUM members' efforts to move into their areas.
The group plans to ask Justice Minister Takao Jinnouchi, Home Affairs Minister Takeshi Noda and Diet members representing the municipalities to attend the rally.