Police cracked down hard on doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo on Monday, raiding nine of its bases across the nation, Metropolitan Police Department officials said.
Cult members Kazunori Ishida, 29, of Kawasaki, and a 42-year-old man whose name and address were not disclosed have been arrested in separate incidents recently for allegedly entering apartment buildings illegally and putting AUM pamphlets into residents' mailboxes.
Arrests for such minor indiscretions are extremely rare and indicate that police are clamping down on the cult amid recent widespread fear of its revival, a perceived threat made worse for many by the fact that many sect members have recently finished serving prison terms.
AUM members have confessed to carrying out the 1995 lethal gas attack on Tokyo subways that killed 12 and sickened thousands.
During Monday's raids, police targeted nine AUM bases located in Sendai, Yokohama, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, Naha and the Shiga Prefecture town of Kosai. They seized thousands of AUM pamphlets and tons of other leaflets on which printing had not been completed.
Police said the 42-year-old follower they arrested on May 27 entered without permission an apartment building in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, putting into residents' mailboxes an AUM pamphlet, part of which accused the media of overreacting to the cult's activities.
Ishida's arrest involved similar circumstances. Police said on Monday that the AUM follower had been caught in the act of placing cult leaflets in a Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, apartment building he had entered illegally on Sunday. The pamphlets Ishida was allegedly distributing also claimed AUM has done nothing wrong.
Police have recently raided other AUM facilities in Tokyo, Ibaraki and Saitama prefectures. In the wake of the earlier raids, the cult started printing masses of pamphlets accusing investigators of abusing their authority.
In 1997, the Public Security Commission, an independent administrative body, rejected the government's request to apply the Subversive Activities Prevention Law to disband the cult.
The government recently decided to consider new legislation to restrict AUM activities. AUM's recent activities in various parts of the country have sparked anxiety among local residents.
The government may put the sect under strict watch by revising the Subversive Activities Prevention Law, regardless of whether the group poses a threat to society.
On Sunday, two computer-shop employees believed to be AUM members were stabbed on a street in Tokyo's Akihabara district, police said. According to investigators, the victims were handing out flyers for a computer shop believed to be affiliated with the cult on a street at around 5 p.m. when they were approached by two knife-wielding men.
One of the assailants yelled, "You are AUM members, aren't you? I hate AUM," then the pair stabbed the victims.
One of the victims, a 32-year-old man who lives in Adachi-ku, was stabbed on the side of his left chest and suffered wounds that will take two weeks to heal. The other victim, 29, suffered slight injuries to his left hand.
The attackers fled in the direction of JR Akihabara Station.