Groups‎ > ‎

Aum Shinrikyo


High court upholds life sentence for Aum member Katsuya Takahashi

“The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that sentenced a former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive to life in prison for his role in the doomsday cult’s 1995 sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 people and sickened thousands. Katsuya Takahashi, 58, was found guilty by the Tokyo District Court in April 2015 of murder and other crimes for his role as a driver for one of the cult members who released the deadly poison on a subway car on March 20, 1995. Takahashi was also accused of involvement in three other attacks orchestrated by Aum during its heyday in the early 1990s.… Takahashi was apprehended in Tokyo in June 2012 after nearly 17 years on the run. He was the last Aum Shinrikyo member on a special nationwide wanted list...” (Japan Times, Kyodo, 09/07/16) [IT 8.1]

Russia’s High Court Bans Aum Shinrikyo

“The Russian Supreme Court has branded the Japanese doomsday cult group Aum Shinrikyo a terrorist organization. The Moscow court banned the infamous group on September 20. Aum Shinrikyo was founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. It was banned in many countries after its members carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.” (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 09/20/16) [IT 8.1]

Victimless prosecution used to jail man for coercive-control offenses

“A 24-year-old who assaulted his girlfriend and stopped her wearing makeup is believed to be the first person to be jailed for coercive control offences using victimless prosecution. On the night the man was arrested, he had started slapping his 21-year-old girlfriend at a party and poured a can of lager over her while he continued the ‘beating’ which resulted in him bursting her eardrum… Controlling or coercive behavior … could include: stopping a victim from socializing; limiting access to family, friends and finances; monitoring a person via online communication tools, for example using tracking apps on mobile phones; threatening to reveal or publish private information… Victimless prosecution—also known as evidence-based prosecution—is used by prosecutors in domestic violence cases to convict abusers without the cooperation of an alleged victim… After the injury to the victim’s ear, DCI Gadd said the offender was arrested and interviewed. ‘He denied everything.’ CPS authorized the charges of section 20 assault, common assault and engaging in controlling and coercive behavior.” (The Telegraph, 09/09/16) [IT 8.1]

High court says ex-Aum cult member not guilty in parcel bombing

Naoko Kikuchi, a 43-year-old former member of Aum Shinrikyo, was released from prison after being found not guilty of a 1995 parcel bombing at the Tokyo metro government building. The Tokyo High Court overruled a lower court sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment. In May of 1995, the parcel bomb was sent to disrupt a police investigation and prevent an arrest of the founder of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, Chizuo Matsumoto. The defense counsel claimed that Kikuchi didn’t have any idea that the chemicals that she took to the cult’s hideout were going to be used to harm anyone. “A number of Aum members including Asahara have been found guilty in a series of crimes, including a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 that killed 13 people and made more than 6,000 others ill.” (Japan Today, 11/27/15) [IT 7.2 2016]

Montenegro's deportation of Japanese cult leaves unanswered questions

In Montenegro, 43 Russians, seven Belarusians, four Japanese, three people from Ukraine, and one person from Uzbekistan are reportedly members of the terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo. The individuals have been deported for lacking temporary-residence permits that would allow them to reside in the Balkan nation. The members of the group told police that they were in Montenegro as tourists. No arrests were made; the individuals were just deported. (Deutsche Welle, 03/29/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Mass raids, arrests target followers of Aum Shinrikyo in Russia

“Russian police have raided 25 premises linked to the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult in Moscow and St. Petersburg, detaining several members. This comes after authorities in Montenegro deported 58 suspected cult followers, 44 of them to be sent to Russia. The raids targeted the homes and places of worship of suspected cultists of Aum Shinrikyo, a doomsday religion that is banned in Russia.” (RT, 4/5/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

“I was God who created Christ”: Whipping cult leader held with $4 million in cash stash and a crocodile

Cult leader Andrey Popov, or “God Kuzya,” has been accused of torturing women from his group. Popov reportedly punished his followers for “offenses” such as communicating with the outside world, taking medicine, or making a phone call to relatives. Popov claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Russian saint and spiritual leader Sergey Radonezhsky, 19th century Russian occultist Yelena Blavatskaya, and the Archangel Gabriel. Investigators searched his seven apartments and found more than $4 million worth of items. The Russian Orthodox Church accused Popov’s cult of setting up shops at their fairs and offering to perform various religious services for money. Russian media have compared Popov’s cult with the notorious Tokyo sarin attackers, the infamous religious organization Aum Shinrikyo, which killed 12 people and left 50 others severely wounded and 1,000 visually impaired. (RT, 09/10/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Supreme Court rejects plea for retrial of Aum founder Asahara

The Supreme Court of Japan has finalized the decision not to grant Shoko Asahara, cult founder of Aum Shinrikyo, a retrial. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on death row for masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, among other charges. (The Japan Times, 3/12/15) [IT 6.3 2016]

Cult continues to influence sarin nerve gas suspect

Kimiaki Nishida, a social psychologist and professor at Rissho University, met former AUM Shinrikyo member Katsuya Takahashi at a detention center in October and said Takahashi is still influenced by the [cult’s] doctrine and looked like a believer[,] … being unable to be free of brainwashing even though he has led a social life for a long time” since he departed from the group. It is the first time since his arrest in June 2012 after being on the run for about 17 years that the condition of 56-year-old Takahashi has been revealed. Takahashi’s appearance has not changed since the time of his arrest, the professor said.

The former AUM member, set to go on trial in January, has been charged with murder over the cult’s deadly sarin nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, which killed 13 people and left more than 6,000 people ill.

Nishida has also met many other former cult members, and his assessments of some AUM members have been admitted as evidence. (South China Morning Post, 12/8/14) [IT 6.2 2015]

Surveillance of Aum successor cults extended for 3 years

The Public Security Examination Commission (an external organ of the Justice Ministry) has said that two spinoffs of Aum Shinrikyo will remain under surveillance for 3 more years starting February 1, 2015. This extension is the fifth since surveillance began in January 2000 and will apply to Aleph, as the cult is now known, and Hikarinowa, or Circle of Rainbow Light. (The Japan Times, 1/24/15) [IT 6.2 2015]

The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult (now called Aleph) and the offshoot Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light) splinter group might remain under surveillance for at least the next 3 years, the Public Security Intelligence Agency said Monday. Saying the two groups remain dangerous, the agency filed a request with the Public Security Examination Commission to extend the surveillance period after the current mandate expires at the end of January 2015.

Although the group has introduced external auditing by individuals such as Yoshiyuki Kono, a survivor of an Aum sarin gas attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, the auditing system has not resulted in the group going straight, the agency said. And they retain antisocial traits and teach their followers that the sarin gas attack was justified. (The Japan Times, 12/1/14) [IT 6.1 2015]

Former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, who had turned himself in on New Year’s Eve 2011 after eluding authorities for 17 years, was found guilty and sentenced March 7 to 9 years in prison for his role in the 1995 kidnapping and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya and two other crimes. Those crimes were two bombings in 1995 of a condominium belonging to university professor Hiromi Shimada and an Aum facility in Tokyo, both intended to deflect suspicion from Aum for other major crimes.

Prosecutors attacked Hirata’s claims of total lack of foreknowledge, citing the testimony of two of his superiors in the cult, Yoshihiro Inoue and Noboru Nakamura, whose sentences had previously been finalized. Referring to those claims, presiding Judge Hiroaki Saito of the Tokyo District Court said that Hirata “dutifully performed his roles in organized crimes he was instructed to engage in, fully aware of their nature,” and that Hirata’s decision to participate in three illegal activities in a short interval suggests he had no hesitation to commit the crimes. Judge Saito gave no credit to Hirata for finally surrendering to the authorities, saying that “…by staying on the run for so long [Hirata] caused nonnegligible consequences to society and Japan’s legal system.”

The nearly two-month trial marked both the first time an Aum cultist was tried under the lay judge system introduced in 2009, and the first time that convicted criminals on death row were summoned to testify under this system. (The Japan Times, 3/7/14) [IT 5.2]

Based on the evidence from a recent on-site inspection of the group’s headquarters, Aum Shinrikyo still hates the Japanese government: photographs of high-ranking members of the Public Security Intelligence Agency, police officers, and lawyers displayed in front of an alter and stabbed with a 10-inch knife. Aum, now with about fifteen hundred followers—up 150 from 2011—is still close to jailed founder Shoko Asahara, who remains on death row. Members, who celebrate his birthday, are required to pray that his life is prolonged. (Japan Daily Press, 7/4/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

The Tokyo District Court has ordered the Metropolitan Government to pay damages and apologize to Aleph, previously known as Aum Shinrikyo, for releasing an investigative report in 2010 suggesting that the organization was behind a 1995 attempt to murder the national police chief. But the court refused to order the chief of the time to pay damages and apologize. Aum founder Shoko Asahara remains on death row. (Japan Times, 1/16/13) [IT 4.2 2013] 

The Japanese Public Security Intelligence Agency reports there is a record number of new followers of Aleph, the renamed Aum Shinrikyo of subway-gas-attack infamy, and of Circle of Rainbow Light, which subsequently broke away from Aleph. Aleph is considered the more mainstream of the two. Together, they count 255 members, triple the number in 2008. The two groups have been under government surveillance since 2000 and must submit quarterly records on the number of followers and assets. Aum is recruiting on University campuses, employing posters that don’t specifically name Aum. (Japan Daily Press, 12/24/12) [IT 4.1 2013] 

Naoko Kikuchi, a former member of Aum Shinrikyo who assisted in the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, was arrested in June after 17 years on the run. She said she’s relieved because she doesn’t have to hide her identity anymore. Nearly 200 Aum members have been convicted of involvement in the gas attack and other crimes, and only one remains at large. (klfy.com, 6/4/12) [IT 3.2 2012] 

Three hundred agents of Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency raided 26 Aum Shinrikyo sites in September, pursuant to the directives of a 1999 law permitting surveillance of groups that have previously committed indiscriminate acts of mass murder. Policy makers are questioning whether the legislation needs to be extended. Despite his continued imprisonment, it is believed that Aum founder Shoko Asahara still has considerable influence over both Aleph—Aum’s new name—and Hikari no Wa, a splinter group. Both organizations refer to Asahara as “respectable teacher” and “guru.” Aum now focuses on Internet recruiting. (Diplomat, 8/27/11) [IT 2.3 2011] 

The 2004 death sentence appeal by the chemist who made the nerve gas deployed by Aum Shinrikyo in the group’s 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway has been denied. Former cult leader Shoko Asahara remains on death row, having lost his final death sentence appeal in 2006. Aum is still active, with about 1,500 fol­lowers—there were tens of thou­sands in the 1990s—and 34 facilities across the country. (Wall Street Journal, 2/15/11) [IT 2.2 2011]

The Japanese Supreme Court has turned down Shigeo Sugimoto’s appeal to overturn his life sentence for participating in Aum Shinrikyo’s 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. His attorneys argued that he only transported the people who actually dispersed the gas, and that he regretted the incident. [csr 8.2, 2009)

Eleven hundred and thirty-nine people, claiming they were injured as a result of Aum crimes, have applied for government benefits since a law for relief was passed in 2008. Some among the 6,600 who are eligible have refused to apply, saying they don’t want to remember the incidents that caused their suffering. Payments, depending on the degree of suffering, range from $1,100 to $330,000. [csr 8.1, 2009)

After 12 years, bankruptcy procedures for Aum Shinrikyo have culminated, and an estimated 1.5 billion yen are to be distributed to the group’s victims. Although more than twice that amount is owed, attorneys believe that the split in the group means that it would be difficult to collect more money. Meanwhile, both the ruling and opposition political parties in Japan are considering a bill to financially aid the victims. [csr 7.3 2008)

The Supreme Court has rejected former Aum Shinrikyo member Yasuo Hayashi’s appeal of his death sentence for conspiring with other members in the poison gas attack on the Toyo subway in 1995. [csr 7.2 2008)

The Japanese government’s intelligence agency estimates that Aum Shinrikyo (now calling itself Aleph) numbered some 1,500 followers at the end of November, down by about 150 from the year 2000. The agency attributed the decline to internecine conflicts. A splinter group under Fumihiro Joyu numbers 210, up from 163 at mid-year. The agency still considers Aum a threat. [csr 7.1 2008)

Public safety agents in May raided the Aum Shinrikyo offices of Fumihiro Joyu, who announced the day before that he and 160 followers had formed a splinter sect, Hikari no Wa (Wing of Light), which bans monotheistic belief while seeking spiritual healing and promoting positive social works. Authorities said they found portraits of jailed Aum founder Shoko Asahara at several Wing of Light facilities, which indicated to them that the new group is “still under Asahara’s influence.” Government agents regularly inspect Aum facilities. . . The head of a neighborhood association in Tokyo asked: “How can people who were involved with Aum for 20 years abandon Asahara’s teachings just like that? That would be impossible.” Wing of Light now stresses animism and Shintoism, and is marketing relaxation and healing programs in an effort, some say, to erase its reputation for fanaticism. . . The Tokyo High Court has upheld the death sentence given Seiichi Endo, the Aum Shinrikyo scientist and Tokyo University graduate in virology who produced the nerve gas used in murderous Aum attacks in 1994 and 1995. His defense argued that Endo was only indirectly involved and that Asahara had brainwashed him. [csr 6.2 2007 2007]

Some 200 followers of breakaway Aum Shinrikyo faction leader Fumihiro Joyu, including 60–70 live-in members, have officially cut ties with the cult and disavowed the teachings of founder Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara), who has been sentenced to death for masterminding cult crimes. Security Agency officials doubt the Joyu group can escape Matsumoto’s influence and say they will keep members under surveillance. [csr 6.1 2007 2007]

Aum Shinrikyo faction leader Fumihiro Joyu says he and his supporters are considering dropping educational materials that promote the personality cult of founder Shoko Asahara, jailed and awaiting execution, and then decide on a new name for the group. . . Meanwhile, security officials say Aum remains dangerous because it still adheres to Asahara teachings that condone murder[csr 5.3 2006]

The Japanese Supreme Court has denied former key Aum Shinrikyo official Shinichi Koshikawa's appeal of a 10-year prison sentence for murder. He was charged with conspiring with Aum leader Shoko Asahara — known also as Chuzo Matsumoto — to strangle a fellow cult member. The court also upheld the death sentence meted out to Masami Tsuchiya, once a doctoral candidate in chemistry, for his involvement in making sarin and other poisons used in Aum attacks. Remarking on Tsuchiya’s refusal to appear in court, a judge said, “I cannot feel a willingness to reform from a defendant who rejects hearings.” The convictions of other Aum members for a variety of crimes, for which they were sentenced to death or life in prison, are still being appealed. . Police raided the home of the imprisoned Asahara’s wife in connection with a bank account they believe members have used to launder money deposited to support her and her family. Aum is required by the court to compensate victims of the group’s criminal activities. . . State security officials believe that Archary, one of Asahara’s daughters, said to be popular among Aum purists who worship him as a god, will become the cult’s leader. . . The leader of one of Aum’s two current factions, Fumihiru Joyu, emulating early 1990s pilgrimages by Asahara, recently led 70 followers on a three-day trip to visit temples, mountains, and other “sacred grounds,” apparently hoping to strengthen his support among members, currently split between him and fundamentalists loyal to Asahara. [csr 5.3 2006]

Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara’s daughter has asked a court to appoint as her legal guardian the journalist who first exposed Aum crimes. Her lawyer said: “She wants to be independent of the cult and her family, but cannot realize her wish under the existing guardian,” who is her father’s defense counsel. [csr 5.3 2006]

The Japanese Supreme Court has denied former Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph) member Noboru Nakamura’s appeal of his life sentence for murder in connection with the Aum gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1994. He was convicted in 2001, saying he was only a lookout and didn’t intend to kill anyone. . . Japanese security officers inspected 25 Aum Shinrikyo facilities across the country the day after leader Shoko Asahara’s death sentence was “finalized.” They were checking for “dangerous moves among cult members.” An official said the finalization may prompt some members to kill themselves when the sentence is carried out. Aum’s financial resources include: donations from followers who live in their own homes; wages earned by members who live communally; and payment for public lectures. . . Aum got away with numerous crimes between 1989 and 1995, even before the infamous attack on the Toyo subway, thanks to authorities’ failure to investigate or share information and to heed warning signs. The earlier crimes, which gave the group the sense that it could do whatever it liked, included: narcotics manufacture and sales; arms smuggling; medical fraud and malpractice; child abuse; forgery; copyright infringement; consumer fraud; land fraud; perjury; intimidation; harboring fugitives; extortion; burglary; assault; kidnapping; attempted murder; and murder. . . The Aum faction led by Fumahiro Joyu wants to stop payments to Asahara’s wife, now out of prison and living with their daughters, but this idea is opposed by a faction loyal to the imprisoned guru, known [more commonly now by his original name] as Chuzo Matsumoto. [csr 5.3 2006]

Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph) leader Fumihiro Joyu, saying it will be difficult to bridge the gap between Aum groups that are for and against him, has suggested splitting the organization’s financial assets and facilities with the opposition while he reviews religious principles and training systems as a prelude to launching a new group. . . Authorities see Joyu’s conjectured plan as a way to “evade application of the Group Control Law and survive as a new religious organization.” Some say his faction, which amounts to some twenty percent, or 1,600 members — another twenty percent make up the anti-Joyu faction — seeks to diminish the influence of founder Shoko Asahara, now jailed and appealing a death sentence. Joyu told followers, “If we make a new religious organization, we will never make a person into a god.” . . . Asahara’s lawyers have filed an appeal of his conviction and death sentence with the Supreme Court on the ground that he suffers from “pathological mental stress” caused by confinement and was unfit for the trial that found him guilty. The Tokyo High Court rejected a similar appeal on his behalf in March. [csr 5.2 2006 2006]

Aum Shinrikyo (renamed Aleph) leader Fumihiro Joyu has earned some 10 million yen from holiday season seminars in Shiba and Osaka, while the head of a rival Aum faction, Tatsuko Muraoka, collected about 30 million yen from 260 followers at various locations. . . Authorities report that Aum still keeps video masters of guru Shoko Asahara justifying his orders for members to commit murder, clearly demonstrating, they say, that followers are still loyal to him. . . The Public Security Examination Commission has decided to extend for three years its surveillance of Aum. The agency says Aum is earning a great deal from its illegal profit-making businesses. . . Former Aum official Takashi Inoue had been sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined two million yen for the unlicensed sale of skin ointment in 2003 and 2004. [csr 5.1 2006 2006]

Lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara have challenged the credibility of a court-appointed psychiatrist who says that Asahara is mentally fit to stand trial in his appeal and that he is only pretending to be senile. A team of psychiatrists supporting the defense position says Asahara is suffering from pseudologia phantastica: he tells extravagant and fantastic lies about himself. . . Aum member Tomomasa Nakagawa, sentenced to death for his role in the group’s gas attack and other crimes, has begun an appeal of his sentence. He says he was not aware that Aum planned to release the poison gas which he prepared. [csr 5.1 2006]

The Tokyo High Court has upheld the death penalty sentence for Tomomitsu Niimi, Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara’s chief lieutenant, convicted in the Aum 1994 and 1995 gas attacks and other crimes. The court dismissed the argument that the once gentle and intelligent college student was duped by Asahara into thinking the crimes expressed divine will. Nimi said he was sorry to have caused “so much grief, but please understand that some may hold other values.” The father of a former Aum member whom Niimi tried to kill said, “Deep down,” Niimi “is horrified at what he did. But he can’t admit that, not even to himself. It would mean a denial of all that he’s done for Aum.”. . . The High Court as well rejected Shoko Asahara’s own death sentence appeal, saying his lawyers failed to present their case on time. They argued originally that he was mentally and physically unfit to stand trial and now refused to submit appropriate appeal documents on the ground that making a mentally incompetent defendant stand trial was against lawyers’ ethics. . . . Asahara’s daughters, who were children when the crimes were committed, have been ostracized by Japanese society. They say their father is mentally ill and that he should not be executed. Their mother, found guilty of conspiring with him to kill another member, was released from jail in 2002. In February, a junior high school refused to admit Asahara’s youngest son because it could not guarantee the safety of the 11-year-old, saying also that he could conceivably be under the influence of the cult. . . Following police raids in April on 11 Aum facilities across Japan aimed to uncover possible plots related to the court proceedings against Asahara (also known as Chuzio Matsumoto), the Minister of Justice said the estimated 1,600 members still believe strongly in him and that their number is not declining. [csr 5.1 2006]

Kenichi Hirose, sentenced to death for involvement in the Aum Shinrikyo subway gas attacks, said recently that Aum leader Shoko Asaha “was said to have the power to eliminate people’s evil deeds. I could only take his instruction to release the gas as salvation. That it was murder according to common sense did not occur to me.” (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 3/21/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

The government is moving painfully slowly to provide financial compensation and medical and psychological care to several thousand victims of the Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks. A victims’ representative says: “Is it right for the government just to pity us, think we were just unlucky at that moment, and do nothing?” Aum, now called Aleph, is paying some compensation. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 3/14/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Guilty in Training Death
Four members of Keroyan, an Aum Shinrikyo splinter group, were sentenced to suspended prison terms for their involvement in the death of a woman during a spiritual training session. They did not report the death for months fearing the group would be severely criticized. (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 3/30/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

First Execution Go-ahead
A senior Aum member has told a seminar of 270 followers that their number “would be twice as large if each one of you wins one new member.” The audience reportedly donated $278,000 during the seminar. Current membership is estimated to be about 1,650 — plus some 300 in Russia — down from 11,400 before the 1995 gas attacks. Aum, which has deposed imprisoned leader Shoko Asahara, says it has abandoned violent and dangerous rites, but t he government says members still follow Asahara’s teachings, an apocalyptic Hindu-Buddhist mix. (Yahoo! Singapore News, Internet, 6/3/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

The Japanese Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence of former Aum Shinrikyo official Kazuaki Okazaki, 44, for his role in the poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995. He is the first of thirteen Aum members sentenced to death for the group’s crimes who has exhausted his appeals. (AFP in Yahoo Asia News, Internet, 4/7/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

The family of imprisoned Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara has asked the Tokyo court to move him to a medical facility for treatment of physical and mental problems. (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 6/21/05) [csr 4.2 2005]The Tokyo District Court has refused a request by Aum Shinrikyo that the government cease surveillance of the group. Authorities say the surveillance should continue because, they allege, Aum’s founder, Shoko Asahara, who has been sentenced to death, continues to exercise power over members. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 10/29/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Victims of the Aum 1995 subway gas attacks, and other Aum crimes, have asked the government to act quickly on the compensation issue, still unresolved after nine years. “This is not simply about money,” said a victims’ representative, the wife of a stationmaster who died in the attacks. ”In order for the victims to recover, there is a need to stabilize their lives and to do this, compensation is necessary.” (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 10/7/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Surveillance to Continue
Members Arrested
Three Aum members were arrested on suspicion of renting a residential apartment in Yokahama from 2001 to 2003 and hiding the fact that it would be used as an Aum facility. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 11/30/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Asahara Imagining Baseball on Death Row
Jailers say that Aum guru Shoko Asahara, awaiting a decision on his death sentence appeal, recently mimicked a baseball pitcher and said, during an exercise session, “I am a champion pitcher in the national high school baseball tourney at Koshien Stadium.” (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 12/4/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Training Death Surmised
Fellow members suspect that Aum follower Wakasio Togashi, found dead in a bathtub recently, died accidentally while undergoing “thermal training,” in which adepts soak for hours in scalding, 50 degree centigrade hot water. Togashi served seven years in prison for his participation in the Aum gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. Aum says it will end thermal training. (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 1/2/05; AFP in ABC News, Internet, 1/3/05) [csr 4.1 2005]

Infiltration Claimed
Aum followers have infiltrated legal businesses, using profits to finance its operations throughout Russia, according to Anatoly Safonov, the Russian Presidents Commissioner for International Cooperation in Fighting Terrorism and Organized Crime. He was speaking in Tokyo following Russo-Japanese meetings on i [csr 4.1 2005]nternational terrorism. (Novosti, Internet, 12/10/04)[csr 4.1 2005]

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara is refusing to see Takeshi Matsui, the lawyer the guru’s daughters have hired to handle his death sentence appeal. The appeal trial was set to begin “as early as next year,” but it now may be delayed. During the trial that ended in his conviction, Asahara often refused to speak with his court-appointed lawyers, and he has not personally indicated a wish to appeal. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 5/19/04) [csr 3.3 2004 2004]

Two Japanese suspected of being high ranking Aum Shinrikyo members have been barred from entry into the Philippines because they are considered “threats to our peace and security,” said an immigration commissioner. (APF in Philippine Sun Star, Internet, 4/19/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Court Orders School to Admit Asahara’s Daughter
A Tokyo court has ordered Bunkyo University to admit a daughter of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, rejecting the school’s contention that her presence would be disruptive. Bunkyo originally admitted her and then rejected her after learning who she was. (AP in Charleston Gazette, 5/1/04)[csr 3.3 2004]

Life Sentence Changed to Death on Appeal
The lower court had ruled that Inoue played only a supporting and liaison role, but Judge Yamada said the gas release was Inoue’s idea and that he procured the vehicle used in the attack. The lower court acknowledged that Inoue was the on-the-spot gas attack commander. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 5/29/04)[csr 3.3 2004]

Asahara Still Their Guru
Aum is reportedly still strongly influenced by imprisoned guru Shoko Asahara (known also as Chizu Matsumoto), despite the apparent attempt of new leader Fumihiro Joyu to reform the group following his break with the founder in 2003. Joyu has not been seen since he announced that he was undergoing religious training. In his stead, four other senior leaders have been operating Aum and treating Matsumoto as their head, in absentia. One of them said: “Even if our guru is executed, he’ll only perish in body. His existence will still be absolute.” Aum currently has 650 live-in and about 1,000 lay followers, with 26 facilities in Tokyo and 16 other prefectures. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 7/8/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

The Tokyo High Court has sentenced former Aum Shinrikyo “intelligence minister” Yoshihiro Inoue to death, reversing a lower court’s life sentence because it found that, “Although he has cooperated in clarifying the facts and has shown deep atonement, his criminal responsibility in the subway attacks and its terrible results is equivalent to that of those who actually released sarin gas.” [csr 3.3 2004]

Six Aum Shinrikyo members were recently arrested for selling dermatitis cream in Tokyo without licenses. Police also raided 20 Aum-related locations to learn if proceeds from the sales were used to fund Aum activities. Some customers complained that the cream led to chapped skin because of the side-effects of the steroids used in it. (Manaichi Shimbun, Internet, 6/3/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Three former senior Aum Shinrikyo leaders and an ex-police officer have been arrested for the 1995 shooting of then Japan National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu. The arrests were made during police raids of eight Aum facilities, including the group’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. (Xinhua News Agency, Internet, 7/7/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara is refusing to see Takeshi Matsui, the lawyer the guru’s daughters have hired to handle his death sentence appeal. The appeal trial was set to begin “as early as next year,” but it now may be delayed. During the trial that ended in his conviction, Asahara often refused to speak with his court-appointed lawyers, and he has not personally indicated a wish to appeal. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 5/19/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Two Japanese suspected of being high ranking Aum Shinrikyo members have been barred from entry into the Philippines because they are considered “threats to our peace and security,” said an immigration commissioner. (APF in Philippine Sun Star, Internet, 4/19/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

The Tokyo High Court has sentenced former Aum Shinrikyo “intelligence minister” Yoshihiro Inoue to death, reversing a lower court’s life sentence because it found that, “Although he has cooperated in clarifying the facts and has shown deep atonement, his criminal responsibility in the subway attacks and its terrible results is equivalent to that of those who actually released sarin gas.”

The lower court had ruled that Inoue played only a supporting and liaison role, but Judge Yamada said the gas release was Inoue’s idea and that he procured the vehicle used in the attack. The lower court acknowledged that Inoue was the on-the-spot gas attack commander. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 5/29/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Six Aum Shinrikyo members were recently arrested for selling dermatitis cream in Tokyo without licenses. Police also raided 20 Aum-related locations to learn if proceeds from the sales were used to fund Aum activities. Some customers complained that the cream led to chapped skin because of the side-effects of the steroids used in it. (Manaichi Shimbun, Internet, 6/3/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Three former senior Aum Shinrikyo leaders and an ex-police officer have been arrested for the 1995 shooting of then Japan National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu. The arrests were made during police raids of eight Aum facilities, including the group’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. (Xinhua News Agency, Internet, 7/7/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Many Return to Aum
Some 120 of 450 Aum Shinriko members arrested in the wake of the 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway have returned to the group, now called Aleph, following their release or after serving their prison terms. (AP, Internet, 2/13/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Shoko Asahara Sentenced to Death
Judge Ogawa said Matsumoto had ordered his followers to commit the crimes, and rejected the defense argument that the guru had lost control of them and that they acted on their own initiative.[csr 3.1 2004]

The trial lasted eight years because the defense denied all the charges in order to prolong the proceedings. To expedite matters, prosecutors reduced the number of sarin attack plaintiffs from 3,900 to 18 in December 1997. Nevertheless, 256 hearings took place during the trial, the second highest number in the history of the Tokyo District Court. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 2/28/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Mind Control Not Seen as Mitigating Factor
Journalist Yoshifu Arita says the court failed to understand that Shoko Asahara used brainwashing techniques, including religious visions induced by LSD in unsuspecting followers, to get them to do his bidding. Arita says Yoshihiro Inoue, the commander of the 1995 subway attack, received a iife sentence rather than death after the judge allowed him to undergo psychoanalysis, which indicated Asahara still controlled his mind. A religious studies professor at Tokyo University who counseled Inoue criticized the court for not allowing other Aum members to receive similar treatment. “Cultists,” he said, “were not given a chance to look back and repent, and were just sentenced to death, as if that was the objective of the trial. Those in the judiciary feel they are above having to learn (about mind control) even if that may be relevant.” [csr 3.1 2004]

But a professor of criminal law at Chuo University said remorse, or the mind control argument, should not be mitigating factors in verdicts for the kinds of crimes that were committed. He said mind control was too elusive an argument to determine punishment, especially for Aum members, who voluntarily joined. (Yumi Wijers-Hasegawa, Japan Times, Internet, 2/24/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Ex-Member Groups Retain Doctrine
More than 60 former Aum members have set up at least five new, apparently independently acting groups based on the doctrine of Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara), according to police. Aum, now named Aleph, has at least 630 members active in Tokyo, police say, with about 300 more in Moscow, where in 1999 Russian authorities uncovered a plot to free Matsumoto. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 2/27/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Why They Joined
Andrew Marshall, the author of The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum, says the “straight-jacketed” Japanese educational system made youth vulnerable because it did not nurture their critical faculties. Ian Reader, a lecturer in religious studies at Leeds University, in the U.K., says Japan’s traditional Buddhist and Shinto religions fulfill cultural rather than emotional needs, and former leader Asharah’s followers “were looking for something more spiritually nourishing.” (Sahar Buckley, BBC News Online, Internet, 2/26/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Recruits Reflected Japanese Society
In addition, Aum’s doctrine and sins should not be discussed separately, since “there was something inherently anti-social and criminal in the founder’s doctrine. The more ‘pious’ the disciple, the more determined he or she was to live up to the guru’s message — that to bring salvation to the world, Aum should even work evil.”[csr 3.1 2004]

An additional reason for the rise of Aum, one stimulated by the collapse of the Japanese economic “bubble,” is a new popular sympathy for the three “principles” or systems that supported pre-World War II Japan — the emperor system, state Shintoism, and the military— which were denounced after the war as the causes of the nation’s ruin. [csr 3.1 2004]

One can see a similarity between the processes by which Japan “marched inexorably toward war” and by which Aum became a “homicidal entity . . . Aum emerged from a crack in the era, a monstrous caricature or scaled-down version of Japanese society.” [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum leader Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara) provided the basic religious training that “must have been a refreshing experience” for former science students. And for this particular generation of people who were raised to gauge their own worth by test scores, the Aum system of promotion by merit worked perfectly.” (Keiji Ueshima, former professor of religious anthropology, Asahi Shimbun, Internet, 3/23/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

New Aum Businesses
Aum has set up ten businesses across Japan run by live-in followers with the stated goal of helping victims of its crimes. The government believes. However, that the real aim is to increase the organization’s revenue. Some members work at outside companies and contribute part of their salaries to the group. (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 4/16/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Victims Call for Compensation
Victims of Aum’s 1995 sarin gas attack, reiterating previous appeals, have petitioned both the prime minister and the governor of Tokyo to take responsibility and pay compensation. (Kyodo News Service in Japan Today, Internet, 4/16/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Banned from Philippines
The Bureau of Immigration has banned two Aum members from entering the country. An official said that although there was no evidence the two planned a terrorist attack, “the government cannot take chances by allowing the entry of aliens who are considered threats to our peace and security.” (G. DeLosSantos, ABC-CBN, Internet, 4/19/04)[csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo chemist Masami Tsuchiya has been sentenced to death for leading the effort to create the nerve gas used in the group’s 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 and injured thousands. Prosecutors said Tsuchiya, the eleventh Aum member to be sentenced to death, was second in responsibility for the attack only to Aum leader Shoko Asahara. (AP, Internet, 1/30/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Prosecutor’s say that Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara, now awaiting sentencing for the 1995 Tokyo subway poison gassing, wrote letters to followers — while they were in custody and he himself had not yet been arrested — successfully urging them not to renounce him and not to cooperate with authorities. “The effect of the letters was tremendous,” said a senior prosecutor. “Many followers changed their minds after having decided to leave the cult. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 2/12/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo guru Chizuo Matsumoto [also known as Shoko Asahara] has been sentenced to death for masterminding the series of crimes that included the 1994 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and the murders of a lawyer and his family in 1989. Reflecting national interest, 4,600 people lined up for the 38 seats open to the public in the courtroom. Matsumoto showed no emotion as a judge read the sentence, then smirked and occasionally groaned as he heard the reasoning behind the decision. He was the twelfth sentenced to death among 189 indicted in Aum-related cases. [csr 3.1 2004]



The mind control defense argued by Aum Shinrikyo members sentenced to death or life in prison for the group’s crimes had little if any effect on the decisions, although the court in some cases seems to have recognized the commanding influence of guru Shoko Asahara. In one case, the Tokyo District Court determined the accused was in “a state of absolute obedience to the guru, in which it was unthinkable to refuse his orders.” Yet the judge went on to say: “It is very common in organized crimes that a member of a lower rank blindly follows the orders of his senior, [but] that does not lessen his criminal responsibility.”[csr 3.1 2004]

The young people who joined Aum Shinrikyo had not been rebellious teens, nor did they have violent tendencies before becoming members, according to Taro Takimoto, a lawyer who for many years fought Aum, which once tried to kill him. “They were from good, stable households and were normal kids,” he said. But this made them more vulnerable than others. “Many . . . were naïve about the corrupt nature of some people in society . . . They joined Aum with the true belief that they were going to make the world a better place,” Takimoto said.[csr 3.1 2004]

Many Aum Shinrikyo members turned out to be science graduates because people with superior reasoning abilities, who tend to see the limits of reason and knowledge, seek a simpler path, like Aum’s, in their search for happiness. If this were the 1960s, they might have become political activists. [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara’s eleven state-appointed lawyers received some $4.5 million from the government for their services, provided over a span of almost eight years. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 4/17/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo chemist Masami Tsuchiya has been sentenced to death for leading the effort to create the nerve gas used in the group’s 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 and injured thousands. Prosecutors said Tsuchiya, the eleventh Aum member to be sentenced to death, was second in responsibility for the attack only to Aum leader Shoko Asahara. (AP, Internet, 1/30/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Prosecutor’s say that Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara, now awaiting sentencing for the 1995 Tokyo subway poison gassing, wrote letters to followers — while they were in custody and he himself had not yet been arrested — successfully urging them not to renounce him and not to cooperate with authorities. “The effect of the letters was tremendous,” said a senior prosecutor. “Many followers changed their minds after having decided to leave the cult. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 2/12/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo guru Chizuo Matsumoto [also known as Shoko Asahara] has been sentenced to death for masterminding the series of crimes that included the 1994 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and the murders of a lawyer and his family in 1989. Reflecting national interest, 4,600 people lined up for the 38 seats open to the public in the courtroom. Matsumoto showed no emotion as a judge read the sentence, then smirked and occasionally groaned as he heard the reasoning behind the decision. He was the twelfth sentenced to death among 189 indicted in Aum-related cases.[csr 3.1 2004]

The mind control defense argued by Aum Shinrikyo members sentenced to death or life in prison for the group’s crimes had little if any effect on the decisions, although the court in some cases seems to have recognized the commanding influence of guru Shoko Asahara. In one case, the Tokyo District Court determined the accused was in “a state of absolute obedience to the guru, in which it was unthinkable to refuse his orders.” Yet the judge went on to say: “It is very common in organized crimes that a member of a lower rank blindly follows the orders of his senior, [but] that does not lessen his criminal responsibility.”[csr 3.1 2004] 

The young people who joined Aum Shinrikyo had not been rebellious teens, nor did they have violent tendencies before becoming members, according to Taro Takimoto, a lawyer who for many years fought Aum, which once tried to kill him. “They were from good, stable households and were normal kids,” he said. But this made them more vulnerable than others. “Many . . . were naïve about the corrupt nature of some people in society . . . They joined Aum with the true belief that they were going to make the world a better place,” Takimoto said.[csr 3.1 2004]

Many Aum Shinrikyo members turned out to be science graduates because people with superior reasoning abilities, who tend to see the limits of reason and knowledge, seek a simpler path, like Aum’s, in their search for happiness. If this were the 1960s, they might have become political activists. [csr 3.1 2004]

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara’s eleven state-appointed lawyers received some $4.5 million from the government for their services, provided over a span of almost eight years. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 4/17/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Doctor Sentenced to Death
Tomamasa Nakagawa, a physician and former senior leader of Aum Shinrikyo, has been sentenced to death for helping make the sarin gas used in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway. He is the tenth Aum member to be sentenced to death. Aum once claimed 30,000 members but now, under the new name Aleph, has about 1,000. (AAP, Internet, 10/29/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

Ex-Follower Assesses Asahara
Ikuo Hayashi, a physician and former Aum member now serving a life sentence in prison, has written an analysis of leader Shoko Asahara saying the guru “suffered from a narcissistic obsession,” and that “several traumatic setbacks led him to nurse wild, destructive ambitions.” [csr 2.3 2003]

Asahara, born into a poor family, was sent to live with relatives when he was five and then to a boarding school for the blind when he was six. He told Hayashi that he cried every night for fear of dying in his sleep, and that most of his days were filled with tears. Hayashi believes that some unresolved “grief” that Asahara experienced in the school’s closed society festered and became a part of his psychology. [csr 2.3 2003]

But since he was not totally blind, his limited sight, physical strength, and quick mind gave him a feeling of power over the others, says Hayashi, and the ability to control others fed his already inflated ego. This developed Asahara’s conviction that he was a “special being.” [csr 2.3 2003]

After being arrested at age 27 for running a pharmacy that produced and sold fake medication, Asahara joined the Agonshu sect and learned how to run a spiritual movement and attract followers. Next he opened a yoga studio where he preached the mantra, “To hold spiritual powers through endless spiritual training.” Soon, says Hayashi, Asahara envisioned leading an elite group in a terrorist campaign to take over Japan. [csr 2.3 2003]

According to Hayashi, Asahara cited sacred texts that sanctioned murder in the pursuit of enlightenment. The guru ruled by fear, and disobedient followers were killed. Hayashi says he joined Aum to achieve ‘virtue’ and to do good and that he was taken in by Asahara’s spiritual leadership and blinded by his charisma, which together destroyed Hayashi’s ego. Hayashi adds that he wrote his analysis of Aum and Asahara so that the group’s crimes would not be repeated. (Asahi Shimbun, Internet, 11/1/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

Woman Was Government “Mole”
Kitagawa, who joined Aum in 1995, after the gas attack, often told other followers that she was fascinated by North Korea and the Kim Il Jong regime and hoped to move there someday. (Hiroshi Matsubara, Japan Times, Internet, 11/6/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

“Killing Machine’s” Death Sentence Upheld
The Tokyo High Court has upheld the death sentence of Yasuo Hayashi, 45, known as the ‘killing machine,’ convicted of a number of Aum Shinrikyo-related crimes including the release of three bags of sarin poison gas inside Tokyo subway cars in 1995 that killed 12 and injured thousands. Hayashi’s lawyers argued that he was only an accessory to leader Shoko Asahara’s plan to overthrow the government. (AFP on Yahoo! News Singapore, Internet, 12/5/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

Towns Can’t Deny Them Residency
The Japanese Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, decided that local governments cannot deny residency rights to members of Aum Shinrikyo. Aum had asked the courts to revoke the decisions of 16 local governments around the country not to accept members’ applications for residence. Some local governments had refused residency because, they said, they had a duty of protect the health and safety of their citizens. One jurisdiction that has accepted Aum member residency subsidizes other local residents to monitor the group’s activities. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 6/26/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

Kazumi Kitagawa, who recently sought asylum in North Korea, spied on Aum Shinrikyo for the Japanese government from within the group. Former Public Security Investigation Agency official Hironari Noda said Kitagawa sold information to the agency, which has been closely monitoring Aum for a number of years following the Tokyo subway attack. Aum formally complained about Kitagawa’s spying in 2002, but the government, while acknowledging it, refuses further comment. [csr 2.3 2004]

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kiril, meeting with the “chief priests of the six largest Japanese churches,” says there are more Aum Shinrikyo members in Russia than in Japan. Both he and the Japanese delegation agreed to wage a campaign against cults that “could facilitate Russian-Japanese rapprochement.” (Daily News Bulletin (Moscow), Internet, 8/12/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

While Aum Shinrikyo says that it still has hundreds of followers, the long absence of leader Shoko Asahara, now on trial, has “apparently left die-hard members wondering whether there is any point in preserving the group.” The fact that 30% of the 30,000 “hits” on a new web page containing Asahara’s lectures were from Aum members suggests that they are “starving for direct messages” from him, according to a former member.[csr 2.2 2003]

Journalist Shoko Egawa thinks that many bright students from prestigious universities became involved with Aum Shinrikyo because of the group’s system of “mind control.” The methods included food and sleep deprivation, long hours of “ascetic training,” sometimes solitary confinement, rituals that used hallucinogenic drugs and meditation, all of which drained the recruits of willpower. “The cultists eventually reached a state where, even if they felt their actions were wrong, they would automatically shake off such misgivings.”[csr 2.2 2003]

Internet Recruiting
Aum (now called Aleph) is reportedly using female members who go on to Internet match-making sites to “lure” new male members. Aum has been making a comeback of sorts since 2001 and denies the allegation.[csr 2.2 2003]

Police gave an example of how a man answered a female Aum member’s matchmaking site message, met her, and went to a class with her to learn yoga. He became a regular yoga practitioner. Later, the woman approached him and asked if he would like to meet Joyu, a notorious Aum leader. The man declined, but relented when she told him that meeting Joyu would lead to advanced yoga study. He soon began attending “cult” meetings and eventually became a member, but left when he developed doubts about the group’s teachings. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 1/29/03) [csr 2.2 2003

Compensation for Rejection
The Mwito District Court ordered the city government to pay two Aum members 600,000 yen [$5,000] for rejecting their application to register as residents. The judge said that the two, one 36 and the other 54, were emotionally distressed by the rejection, which meant that they were not able to “register their personal seals” or renew their driver’s licenses. (Daily Yomiuri, Internet, 1/29/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

“Still a Threat”
A government report released in April says that Aum Shinrikyo, which attacked the Tokyo subway in 1995 with poison gas, “remains a danger of inflicting indiscriminate mass murder.” According to the report, Aum has tried to avoid Public Security Investigation inspectors by encoding computer data, hiding leader Shoko Ashahara’s sermons, and covering up evidence of members still worshipping him. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 4/11/03) [csr 2.2 2003

Said to Be Failing
In 1995, when the Aum poison gas attacks occurred, Aum had 1,000 members living communally and 10,000 who lived and worked in the outside world. Today, 522 live together and some 672 regularly visit one or another of Aum’s 21 facilities for religious observances or seminars, or to donate their income, according to an Aum report to the government security agency. The average age of members is now over 35, with few young people joining. Asahara’s refusal to speak during his trial has also led to the departure of many disenchanted followers, former members believe. (Hiroshi Matsubara, Japan Times, Internet, 4/23/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

Use of “Mind Control” Kept Recruits
Egawa says that it was difficult for followers to leave because they often had no where to go, having given all of their assets to Aum and cut ties to friends and family. Some remained because they were afraid of being punished if they tried to leave. (Yumi Wijurs-Hasegawa, Japan Times, 4/25/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

Aum Called Cyber-terror Threat
The CIA, in a recent report on terrorist threats, says that Aum Shinrikyo, the group responsible for the 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and other crimes, has the potential to mount a cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. (Kyodo News, Internet, 10/29/02) [csr 2.1 2003 2003]

Call for End to Surveillance
Aum has formally asked the Public Security Examination Commission to stop keeping it under surveillance because, it claims, it is no longer a threat to commit mass murder. Aum [now calling itself “Aleph”] says that leader Chuzo Matsumoto [Shoko Asahara, who is on trial] now “wields no power to order indiscriminate mass killings.” (Kyodo, Internet, 11/7/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Aum Experience Should Help Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction
The conference emphasized that such weapons are perfect tools for “asymmetric warfare”—in which a small amount of anthrax or nerve agent can have a massive impact on individuals and communities. (Jane’s, Internet, 11/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Town Ordered to Accept Residency
The Mito District Court has ordered the town of Sanwa, in eastern Japan, to rescind its decision to reject residency registrations submitted by six member of Aum Shinrikyo, the group responsible for the poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 and still under government surveillance. The town said that local peace would be disturbed if the Aum members moved in. (Xinhua via COMTEX, Internet, 12/3/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Protests Continued Surveillance
The Commission, however, says that cult members still submit to jailed guru Asahara, that Joyu continues to make statements supporting Asahara, and that Joyu has tried to justify the subway attack and other Aum crimes. (Kyodo, in Japan Today, Internet, 1/24/03) [csr 2.1 2003]

A detailed account of the Aum Shinrikyo poison gas attacks in 1994 indicates that a special force is needed to deal with such events and that on-scene decontamination was essential to prevent cross-contamination of responders and medical staff. The study, by Dr. Anthony Tu, of Colorado State University, was presented at the Jane’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Conference in Washington in November. [csr 2.1 2003]

The Japanese government intelligence agency claims that Aum Shinrikyo leader Fumihiro Joyu is still preaching guru Shoko Asahara’s dogma that people can be freed from their “sinful deeds” if they are killed. The agency report also says that Joyu may be planning a mass murder to rescue Asahara from what appears to be an imminent death sentence for his part in the group’s 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and other crimes. (Shigemi Sato, the Australian, Internet, 12/9/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Aum Shinrikyo “cult” leader Fumihiro Joyu has attacked the decision of the Public Security Examination Commission to extend surveillance over AUM (now calling itself Aleph) for another three years. He said: "It is unlikely our group will be involved in indiscriminate mass murder such as the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, since our former chief, Shoko Asahara, does not wield absolute power over us.” He said that Aum would file a suit to annul the surveillance decision.[csr 2.1 2003]

“Asahara Is Innocent”

Aum guru Shoko Asahara’s lawyers say that he is blameless for atrocities committed by followers, “who misinterpreted his dogma, which does not tolerate homicide.” They add: “However, a small section of his disciples wrongly believed that murder was permissible in order to achieve the ultimate salvation of mankind. In short, those crimes were the result of rash actions of a group of disciples centered around (the late) Hideo Murai [an Asahara lieutenant.]”[csr 1.3 2002]

The lawyers conceded that Asahara is “morally responsible” for disciples’ acts, but not criminally responsible. They said that Murai was responsible for the idea and implementation of the subway gas attack, and that he ignored Asahara’s orders to stop construction of a sarin gas and testing plant. (Mainichi Shimbun, Internet, 5/23/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Founder’s Daughters Sue Magazine
Two of Aum founder Shoko Asahara’s daughters have sued a magazine for an article that said they took a luxurious vacation when the group had only partly paid damages to the victims of the Tokyo subway attack. (Japan Today, 6/13/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Community Rejection Overturned
Aum members have won 12 cases in a row since last December against local governments that refused to register them as residents, with some gaining both residency and financial compensation. Aum says that it wants local governments to consider how to coexist with its followers. The Setagaya ward (Tokyo) government, which has a condo where some 80 Aum members live, still refuses to register them as residents. (Yomiuri Shimbun, Internet, 5/19/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Death for “Home Affairs Minister”
Tomomitsu Niimi, former “home affairs minister” of Aum Shinrkiyo, has been sentences to death for his involvement in the murder of numerous people, including those killed in the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. At the start of his trial he refused to plea, and pledged eternal loyalty to Aum guru Shoko Asahara. He later confessed, but claimed to have been following Asahara’s orders. Thus, he argued, he should not be subject to the death sentence. (AP, Internet, 6/26/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Prison for Aum Bomber
Masahiro Tominaga, 33, a former senior member of Aum Shinrikyo, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his attempt to kill the governor of Tokyo in 1995 with a parcel bomb. An appeal court reduced an 18-year sentence because Tominaga has shown remorse by paying 4 million yen compensation to victims of the bombing, which took place in a metropolitan government building. (Japan Today, Kyodo, Internet, 7/5/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

“Hounded” by Police
Whenever Araki leaves his apartment, men with clipboards, sometimes three, sometimes a dozen, make a note of when he leaves and with whom. Some of the observers are elderly retirees with time on their hands, others are plain-clothes police. Once a month, authorities raid his apartment and confiscate files and computer disks. “The average person who experienced this kind of thing would have a nervous breakdown, but it’s been going on for seven years, so we’ve almost got used to it. At least they’ve stopped following me,” said Araki.[csr 1.3 2002]

Criminal law professor Akira Fukuda has expressed his disquiet about official treatment of the group. “Mobilizing every possible criminal legal case and interpreting these laws as liberally as possible, they tried to criminalize many petty offenses on an unprecedented scale,” he wrote. [csr 1.3 2002]

“The truth is [says the author of this article] that the notion of a potentially resurgent Aum justifies police budgets and staff levels that otherwise would be hard to justify. The failure to prevent the subway attack remains the Japanese police’s greatest ever humiliation, and it is difficult not to see an element of revenge in the petty abuses they dish out on the cult’s successors.” (The Independent, London, Internet, 7/28/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Disciples Still Praise Asahara’s Teachings
At an Aum training facility in Tokyo, a 35-year-old housewife, who usually visits with her 8-year-old son, said: This is an important place for me. My husband and both his and my parents oppose my faith, but it does not feel right to me to abandon my religious faith because of opposition from others.” The facility has 11 live-in followers and 70 who frequent it. At its height, Aum was estimated to have had 1,000 communal members and about 10,000 participating in various activities. (Hiroshi Matsubara, Japan Times, Internet, 8/8/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

State Surveillance to Continue
The Justice Ministry’s Public Security Investigation Agency is expected to continue for three more years’ surveillance of Aum Shinrikyo, the cultic group responsible for the Tokyo subway poison gas attack in 1994, and other crimes. The law now requires Aum to report the names of members and details of its assets to authorities. The agency wants to continue surveillance because it feels that Aum founder Shoko Asahara, on trial for the crimes, still influences “cult” members. (Xinhua via COMTEX, Internet, 10/7/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Community Organizes vs Aum
Residents of the quiet Tokyo middle-class neighborhood of Karasuyama have formed the Anti-Aum Local Residents Conference in response to the growing number of the group’s members — now 100 — among them. A member of the anti-Aum group — which is made up of a vendors’ association, a parent-teachers’ association, and others — was recently seen watching an Aum residence together with two plain clothes officers from Japan’s Public Security Investigation Agency and two officials from the local ward office. (The Age, Australia, Internet, 10/12/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

The increase in the number of doomsday cults especially worries authorities. Aum Shinrikyo — infamous for the poison gassing of the Tokyo subway — still exits, but has been eclipsed by Nichiren Kenshokai, led by 70-year-old business-suited Shoei Asai, who, followers believe, possesses unsurpassed wisdom and power. He has the answers,” said Kazuhito Suzuki, a disillusioned young construction worker who expresses only disdain for Japan’s establishment and despair for the future. [csr 1.3 2002]

Kyushu University has retracted its offer of admission to a 33-year-old former senior official of Aum Shinrikyo who had earlier been accepted to the institution’s medical school. (Kyodo News, Internet, 3/30/02. See the story below: “Community Rejection Overturned.”)[csr 1.3 2002]

The Osaka High Court has rejected the Suita city government’s appeal of a court ruling that the city compensate two Aum Shinrikyo members for rejecting their applications for residency registration. The city had cited public welfare and anxiety among residents when the members applied to reside in an Aum building in town. (BBC Monitoring Asia-Pacific-Political, Internet, 6/14/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Hiroshi Araki, like many other members of Aum Shinrikyo — the group, now called Aleph, was responsible for the Tokyo subway gas attack and other crimes — is under surveillance by both police and unofficial volunteers who say that Aum/Aleph still represents a threat to Japanese society.[csr 1.3 2002]

Aum Shinrikyo membership has recently grown — the group now claims 1,000 followers — even in the face of government surveillance and the hostility of neighborhood residents toward local Aum facilities. Many followers say that former leader Shoko Asahara’s teachings remain a path to enlightenment and have nothing to do with the crimes their predecessors committed at the guru’s command. [csr 1.3 2002]

A new collection of essays* suggests that the responses of Japanese society to the career of Aum Shinrikyo — the group now calling itself Aleph that was responsible for the Tokyo subway gas attack and other crimes — has conformed to “the terms of the symmetrical scenario expected by the government, media, and the man in the street . . . that the whole [episode] is a simple case of hagaisha (victims) and kagaisha (victimizers), and that the only possible closure is for remaining members to show a sufficient sense of responsibility and repentance (which they have generally failed to do).” [csr 1.3 2002]

Tomolo Asahara, wife of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, will be released on October 15 from prison, where she has been since 1999 for conspiring with him and other followers to strangle Kotaro Ochida [another member of Aum, now called Aleph] in 1994. Public security authorities will monitor her post-release movements. (Kyodo News, Internet, 9/12/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Former Aum Shinrikyo leader Seiichi Endo has been sentenced to death for helping to produce the Sarin poison gas that killed twelve people in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway. Endo joined Aum in 1987 when he was a graduate student of virology at Kyoto University. (AP, Internet, 10/11/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

The church, which claims 10 million members worldwide — with about 1,000 in Japan — has been investigated by police in Brazil and criticized in a report to the Belgian parliament. Kenneth Serbin, professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, says that the church is in part a multi-national business organization that takes advantage of poor people. He adds that critics often overlook the fact that believers get a great deal out of the experience. The church has been forced to cease street proselytizing in Japan because people associate the activity with the Aum Shinrikyo cult. (IHT/Asahi, Internet, 6/30/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

The Irish Times of 4/6/02, Internet, reviews the history of Aum Shinrikyo, the apocalyptic Japanese group now calling itself “Aleph,” that was responsible for the poison gas attack in the Tokyo subways in 1985. Many of the group’s leaders have been convicted for that attack and other crimes. Leader Shoko Asahara’s trial continues. The following are verbatim excerpts of the article. The subway attacks remain the worst single incident of terrorism on Japanese soil. In this world of ever-expanding threats from faceless external foes, the case of Aum Shinrikyo, like that of Timothy McVeigh, is a reminder that the worst of enemies can come from within our own borders. Prosperous, westernized, and safe, the Japan of 1995 was the very model of a apparently peaceful and orderly society. Yet bubbling beneath this benign surface, the best and brightest plotted mayhem against their own government. Indeed, in another life, many of the cultists could easily have become members of the same administrative class they tried to destroy. Many fought their way to the top of Japan's educational system before opting out of life in one of Tokyo's bureaucratic bunkers. Trained to harness their skills to the country's once-unstoppable economic juggernaut, many decided instead to join the cult's apocalyptic master plan when the juggernaut stalled. Toru Toyoda, the man who gassed [British journalist] Michael Kennedy's train, and who is now on death row, was a graduate of Japan's super-elite Tokyo University Science Department. [csr 1.2 2002]

Membership
The plan involved, at its peak, about 10,000 members in Japan and thousands more elsewhere, mainly in Russia. Converts were encouraged by the cult, led by the ambitious Asahara and a coterie of gifted and charismatic disciples, to take celibacy vows, drop out of life and prepare for Armageddon. Asahara studied an eclectic mix of yoga, Buddhism and Christianity before declaring himself an enlightened master and registering his small group as a new religion in 1989. [csr 1.2 2002]

Rumors quickly spread about the bearded guru and his school as it accumulated followers and money. A number of families appeared in the newspapers accusing Aum of kidnapping and brainwashing their children, often taking family assets with them. A Yokohama-based lawyer, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, had begun compiling a file on them before he vanished with his wife and baby son on November 4th, 1989. His friend, investigative reporter Shoko Egawa, knew it had to have something to do with the cult. "It was obvious. There was blood on the walls and even an Aum badge found at his home. But I found police very half-hearted about doing anything, so I started to gather information myself. [csr 1.2 2002]

Approach to Critics
Egawa, who has written several books about Aum, has done more than anyone to expose the group's activities, which were fired by paranoia and punctuated by spurts of increasing violence aimed at enemies and traitors. Defectors and recalcitrant devotees were tortured and burned in microwave ovens. People who opposed Aum's land acquisition were harassed, attacked and gassed. On at least one occasion, cultists strangled someone to death in front of Asahara. [csr 1.2 2002]

These activities grew in intensity after 24 Aum candidates were defeated in the general election of 1990. Voters mysteriously failed to respond to campaigners in elephant masks repetitiously chanting Asahara's name to music. Asahara said the failure was the result of a plot against him by the government and declared himself the messiah, warning that the Third World War was close at hand. [csr 1.2 2002]

Eventually, Egawa earned herself a visit from Asahara's devotees in September 1994. "I was in bed one night and heard this noise from downstairs. At first I thought it was a newspaper going through the letter box but it was too loud for that. Then there was this weird smell, like nothing I've ever experienced before. I got up in time to see two men in helmets fleeing in a car. They had sprayed a chemical called phosgene through the crack in my door but heard me getting up." The police refused to arrest anyone. [csr 1.2 2002]

Weapons
All this was but a sideshow to the cult's real mission — preparing to save the world by destroying it. In addition to producing huge stocks of chemical agents, including sarin and mustard gases and anthrax, a team was dispatched to Zaire to get a sample of the Ebola virus. The cult smuggled a helicopter from Russia and began manufacturing AK-74 rifles. Another team burgled a Mitsubishi factory in Hiroshima for technical data and artillery. [csr 1.2 2002]

The group was investigated by the CIA for attempting to [assemble] nuclear weapons. Some cultists worked for Russia's premier nuclear research facility, the Kurchatov Institute, and Aum bought a 500,000-acre sheep farm in Baniawam, Australia, about 375 miles northeast of Perth, for still unclear reasons. Aum documents made reference to the quality of uranium ore in South Australia, one of the world's leading exporters. [csr 1.2 2002]

In 1994, when a land deal was cancelled after the owner discovered Aum were the buyers, Asahara ordered the murder of the judges presiding over the case. A team used refrigerated trucks loaded with sarin to gas an entire neighborhood, killing seven — including two judges — and injuring 600. Instead of going after Aum, however, the police arrested a hapless local farmer with a small stock of agricultural chemicals on his premises, despite the fact that the sarin had put his own wife in a coma. He was the only person they arrested in connection with the gassing until July 1995. [csr 1.2 2002]

Take the Keio Line from the same Shinjuku Station almost gassed in 1995, and get off 10 minutes later at Karasuyama, a cluttered suburb west Tokyo, and ask anyone if they know where the Aum headquarters is. Nobody here calls them by their current name, Aleph. They will point you to a five-storey redbrick apartment building tucked in off the main shopping street. Outside stands a uniformed policeman and two plain-clothes detectives. Banners are draped over neighboring buildings, reminiscent of residents' campaigns against drug pushers in Dublin, telling the cultists to get out of the area. Inside the HQ are about 80 devotees, according to the police. [csr 1.2 2002]

The building was shot at by someone last December, so they are here to keep the peace. I buzz the intercom and ask if I can talk to someone. A timorous figure — thin, clean-cut, in his early 30s — appears at the door. His name is Ito, Aleph's spokesperson. [csr 1.2 2002]

Ito-san joined the cult in 1994, before Matsumoto and the subway attacks, so I tell him most Irish Times readers will want to know why he is still here. "We accept that these things were mistakes, but the teachings of Aleph are amazing and keep me in the organization," he says. Is that the word he really means, "mistake"? Yes, he says. [csr 1.2 2002]

Ito-san is not alone. According to police reports, the sect currently has about 650 full-time leaders and teachers and up to 2,000 followers. Telegenic new leader Fumihiro Joyu is considered a sharp media manipulator by many Aum watchers. Although the former leaders are on death row, and most expect Asahara to eventually hang too, Aum still has property and assets across Japan, including a number of businesses, and is using the Internet to expand again after years in the wilderness. [csr 1.2 2002]

In January, three Russian cult members were sent to jail for plotting to bomb Japanese cities during the Okinawa G8 Summit in July 2000 in a plot to free Asahara from jail. Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said earlier this month that the cult was still dangerous and needed to be watched. The U.S. government has frozen its assets since September 11th.[csr 1.2 2002]

Armageddon remains a key component of the group's philosophy. . . Although the group deposed Asahara as leader in 2000, Joyu told the BBC afterward that he still approves of "our exalted teacher Asahara's spiritual practices.” The notion that the world was near destruction and its members were the chosen few was always one of Aum's core attractions. As ex-member Shinichi Hosoi told author Haruki Murakami, "What I liked most about the Aum books was that they clearly said that the world is evil. I was happy when I heard that. I'd always thought that the world was unfair and might as well be destroyed." (Irish Times, 4/6/02, Internet) [csr 1.2 2002]

Second Documentary on Aum
Tatsuya Mori has made a second video documentary on Aum Shinrikyo, titled “A2.” The production, which includes live coverage of Aum daily activities, and interviews with Aum members, clearly shows the hostility of much of Japanese society, including the press, toward the “cult.” Mori’s work also makes clear that Aum, now calling itself Aleph, promotes a complete separation from the material world, which means, ultimately, that followers must break all ties with family and friends. This is the aspect of the group's faith that most disturbs the average Japanese. One interviewee laments that "We seem to attract a lot of depressives.” [csr 1.2 2002]

Mori says that Aleph "is a potentially dangerous organization, since they are so pure and virtuous. But society in general has the same potential, especially right now, and I think we have to face up to that. The Japanese have a strong tendency to allow the group to think for them. I mean, more people died from AIDS as a result of callous official policies in the 1980s than those who died at the hands of Aum, which doesn't diminish what Asahara did, but it's something we need to think about." (Masako Tsubuki and Philip Brasor, Japan Times, 3/27/02) [csr 1.2 2002]

Senior Aum Member Gets 10 Years for Killing Colleague
A Tokyo District Court has given Senior Aum member Shinichi Koshikawa, 37, a 10-year prison sentence for conspiring with other followers to kill Kotaro Ochida, a cult pharmacist who tried to help a sick disciple escape. Koshikawa, who headed the sect's self-styled "commerce department," and who still believes in cult guru Shoko Asahara, had pleaded not guilty, denying his and Asahara's role in the killing. (The Age, Melbourne, 3/25/02, Internet)[csr 1.2 2002]

The defense has finally begun its arguments in the trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder and former leader Shoko Asahara on murder and other charges related to the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, and other cases. The trial began more than six years ago, and it was only in January that the prosecution finished presenting their case, which accused Asahara of 13 crimes, including seven murders. The defense, which is expected to take at least a year, will contest the prosecution claim, based on the testimony of Asahara’s lieutenants, that he issued orders for former senior Aum members to commit the crimes. Asahara has refused to consult with his court appointed lawyers during the course of the trial. (Kyodo New Service, 5/23/02, Internet) [csr 1.2 2002]

Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara finally opened his defense of charges that he masterminded the deadly sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1994. Asahara says that his doctrine did not justify murder, and that it was misunderstood by his disciples. His lawyers say that as his sect grew bigger, it became difficult for Asahara to maintain control. They accused Hideo Murai, “science and technology minister” of the group, and another follower, Yoshihiro Inoue, of planning the attacks. Murai was stabbed to death outside Aum’s Tokyo headquarters in 1995, and Inoue has been sentenced to life in prison. (Kyodo News Service, Internet, 5/23/02) [csr 1.2 2002]

For instance, among the academics at the INFORM conference in London attended by Mr. Lester was a scholar who was paid by the Aum Shinrikyo to study the group’s involvement in manufacturing Sarin poison gas and planting it in the Tokyo subway. Predictably, the scholar’s report fully exonerated Aum Shinrikyo and labeled its accusers religious bigots. Despite subsequent studies and criminal prosecutions, he has not apologized or withdrawn his report.[csr 1.2 2002]

The Scotsman article cited above briefly notes other attempts “to colonize a whole area… some with tragic results”: The Peoples’ Temple at Jonestown; the Branch Davidians at Waco; the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors (now involved with authorities in the state of Georgia); Aum Shinrikyo (now called Aleph), in Japan; and Friedrichshop, a sex commune in Germany and Portugal. [csr 1.2 2002]

Aum Shinrikyo. New Aum (Aleph) Leader / Japan. Fumihiro Joyu, the high-profile spokesperson for Aum Shinrikyo, now called Aleph, has been elected to lead the group. In December 1999, Joyu was released from prison after serving a three-year sentence for perjury and forgery. He was one of only a few senior Aum leaders not charged in connection with the 1999 nerve gas attack, which left 12 people dead and injured thousands. News 24, 1/28/02, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum Shinrikyo. Aum Terrorists Planned to Spring Leader / Russia. Three Russian Aum members — Dmitri Shigachev, 24, Sergei Topeko, 28, and Dmitri Voronov, 32, stand accused — and admit the substance of the accusation — of having plotted to bomb various locations in Tokyo in a bid to spring Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara from prison. Banned in 1995 after the cult's lethal sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway commuters, Aum's Russian branch nonetheless maintains a shadowy existence, with some 300 believers in Moscow performing devotions under the supervision of four Japanese Aum priests. (In Japan, Aum now calls itself Aleph.) NEW PARAGRAPH Shigachev, the youngest of the three defendants, is the trio's leader. In 1999 he used the Internet to recruit collaborators for a daring plan he had conceived. The logic was simple. "Asahara," co-defendant Topeko told the court, "should be free. Since there were no legal means to free him, we had no choice but to use terrorism and violence to demand his release." NEW PARAGRAPH Flush with funds from an Aum-affiliated Japanese entrepreneur Shigachev met in Phuket, Thailand, the little group set to work. Topeko procured the weaponry. Voronov, a Vladivostok used-tire salesman, made local preparations, securing a garage to hide the arms in, renting an apartment-hideout for Asahara, and so on. In December 1999,

Shigachev and Topeko rode the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok with three sandbags filled with hand grenades, handmade bombs, and Tokarev and Kalashnikov firearms and ammunition. The following March, Shigachev traveled to Tokyo to scout the terrain. NEW PARAGRAPH Bombs were to be placed at Ueno Station, Shibuya Parco, a Shinjuku high-rise, a Shinagawa hotel, and in a gas storage facility of the Tokyo Detention Center, where Asahara is being held. Then the Japanese government would be warned: Free Asahara or expose the metropolis to devastating death and destruction. Meanwhile, eerily foreshadowing the flying lessons taken by the Sept. 11 hijackers, the three men apparently took boating lessons as part of their preparations to spirit Asahara across the Sea of Japan to Russia. NEW PARAGRAPH Voronov's Chechen mother said: "My son was working with an oil exploration team in Chechnya when he fell from a tower. The doctors could do nothing for him. He visited Asahara, and in three days his injuries healed. That's when he became a believer. We escaped the Chechen war. In Russia we were recognized as refugees, but were given no support. We drifted to Vladivostok. There was nothing here either. I can understand why my son became involved in something like this . . . " (Japan Times, 12/23/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum Leadership Change / Japan
Fumihiro Joyu, 39, a longtime spokesman for the Aum Shinrikyo cult and its de facto number two man, has announced that he will take over the group. He told a news conference at an Aum facility in Tokyo's Setagawa Ward that current leader Tatsuko Muraoka, 51, will step down and become chairwoman. (Kyodo News, Japan Today, 12/28/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Warning on AUM's "Open Door" Policy / Japan
Aum Shinrikyo is trying to increase its appeal by portraying itself as an ''open cult'' in an effort to expand its operations, according to the annual report of the Public Security Investigation Agency. The report says that the group has established new headquarters at three Minami-Karasuyama condominium complexes in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, where the cult's regional leaders from across Japan meet monthly. The group has now opened a total of 11 facilities to local residents and posted contact numbers for more than 600 Aum followers on its Web site. [csr 1.1 2002]

Searches of Aum facilities by the agency have uncovered a number of collections of Aum founder Shoko Asahara's preaching, discoveries the agency says reconfirm the cult's ''deceptive character.'' The cult has amassed huge funds through operating a series of personal computer shops and conducting ''initiations'' at which it collects monetary offerings. (Kyodo, 12/22 and 23/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum Death Sentence Upheld Despite "Mind Control" Claim / Japan
A Japanese court has upheld the death sentence of Aum Shinrikyo co-founder Kazuaki Okazaki, 41, convicted in 1998 of killing an anti-cult lawyer, his wife, and baby son. This was the first death sentence of a member of Aum — now called Aleph— the group that released nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Okazaki argued that he acted while while under the "mind control" of Aum founder Chizu Matsumoto, better known by his pseudonym, Shoko Asahara. (BBC News, 12/13/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Russian Aum Members Convicted in Bomb Plot / Russia
Five Russian members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult were convicted Wednesday of planning to set off bombs in Japanese cities to force officials to free the cult's leader. They received sentences ranging from 41/2 to 8 years. They hoped by terrorizing Japan to win the release of Shoko Asahara, who was jailed pending trial as the suspected mastermind of the deadly 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the prosecutor said. (Chicago Tribune, 1/24/02, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

The Tokyo High Court has upheld a life imprisonment ruling by a lower court for a former AUM Shinrikyo cult member over his role in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Koichi Kitamura, 33. The judge said that life imprisonment is not too harsh a sentence for Kitamura. Despite the that fact he did not play a leading role in the crime, he was aware of the plan in advance and clearly realized the killing power of sarin gas, said Presiding Judge Tetsuya Yoshimoto. (Xinhua via COMTEX, 1/29/02, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Death Penalty Sought for Aum Leader / Japan
Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for former Aum leader Tomomitsu Niimi, the group's former "home affairs minister." He is being tried for the murders of 26 people in seven separate attacks, including the 1995 subway operation. Niimi gained notoriety at the start of his trial in 1996 by refusing to enter pleas and pledging eternal loyalty to Aum guru Shoko Asahara. He is also accused of helping to organize the 1989 strangulation of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, one of the first people to raise questions about the cult's activities.[csr 1.1 2002]

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is being tried separately for allegedly masterminding the subway gas attack and other killings. The cult, which advocated overthrowing the Japanese government by sowing chaos, was declared bankrupt in March 1996 but has regrouped under a new name, Aleph. It is under surveillance by Japan's Public Safety Agency, which has warned that the group is still a threat. (AP, 12/26/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum Programmer Accused of Data Theft / Japan
A computer programmer with ties to Aum is suspected of downloading confidential computer data from eight major companies and giving it to the cult, Tokyo police say. The victims of the alleged theft are all clients of NTT Communications Corp., where the Aum member worked as a subcontractor. (Kyodo News, Japan Today, 12/19/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum Visitors Rejected by Russia / Russia
Russia refused entry to 16 Aum members in 2001, Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolay Patrushev said. The FSB declined to make public the nationality of the members or the purpose of their attempted visits. Aum, now outlawed in Russia, claims it used to have tens of thousands followers in the country. (Kyodo News, Japan Today, 12/19/01, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

"Of course, I remain a believer in Aum Shinrikyo, as I was up to my arrest. But our attitude toward our actions have changed — of course we regret them," Dmitry Sigachyov, leader of the Russian group, said in his final court statement. (Reuters, 1/23/02, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Aum, in Tokyo, denied that the group had assisted in the planned attack. (Courier-Mail, 1/25/02, Internet) [csr 1.1 2002]

Peculiarly Japanese Responses to Aum
In the documentary “A”, Aum members faced with overwhelming evidence of the group’s crimes do not repent, since this would “conflict with the faith (the only thing they have left) which sustains them.” Japanese society has “always had trouble with its kagaisha role, witness its failure to address what happened in World War II. Indeed, in Japan victimization “has become an expectation,” and “this takes a serious toll because reality is simply not to be explained by so elementary a scenario. Neither society nor Aum is facing up to the reality of what happened.” (Donald Richie, Japan Times, Internet, 8/18/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

* Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society Through the Aum Affair, edited by Robert J. Kisala and Mark R. Mullins. Hampshire: Palgrave (St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan), 2001.[csr 1.3 2002]