TOKYO — The doomsday cult accused in the nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways was ordered stripped of its religious status yesterday, clearing the way for the government to seize its assets.
A Tokyo judge ruled that the Aum Shinri Kyo cult did not deserve preferential legal and tax status because its members used cult facilities to make nerve gas.
The ruling by Presiding Judge Seishi Kanetsuki was the first time a Japanese religious group has lost its tax-exempt status. The group’s 10,000 members still will be able to gather and worship freely.
Cult members are expected to appeal. They had no immediate comment.
The founder, Shoko Asahara, is charged with masterminding the March 20 subway attack that killed 12 Tokyo commuters and sickened thousands more. Aum members have also been accused in an earlier nerve gas attack and more than a dozen other deaths.
If the court’s ruling is upheld, the cult’s businesses and large tracts of property would be subject to normal tax rates. The government also could seize its assets.