Police Suspect Former AUM Shinrikyo Bigwig Planning Comeback

TOKYO, Aug. 14 (Kyodo)– Fumihiro Joyu, the nominal head of the AUM Shinrikyo cult that perpetrated the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, may be attempting to stage a comeback, police sources said Sunday.

Joyu, 42, assumed the post of leader in January 2002 but passed on the group’s day-to-day management to a five-member leadership in October 2003 after many cultists spurned his move to distance the group from its founder Shoko Asahara, sentenced to death for the subway attack and other crimes, the sources said.

But some group members have since questioned the leadership of the five executives, two of whom were arrested in July last year and in June this year for an alleged infringement of an employment law and other law violations.

With the group growing anxious about its future, Joyu told his close aides around last October to circulate among group members e-mails saying he must return to power to overcome the leadership crisis, the sources said.

He also began a web blog in February and repeatedly held meetings with group members to explain his plans to run the group, according to the sources. The group changed its name to Aleph in 2000.

Joyu is said to be claiming that the group should undertake charity work to help it reintegrate into society.

But two of the group’s leaders are believed to be opposed to Joyu making a comeback.

A public safety official said, “We need to monitor the growing confrontation between Joyu supporters and opponents.”

After the police began its probe into AUM in March 1995 following the gas attack, Joyu became a prominent media spokesman for the cult, offering eloquent rebuttals to police charges.

On Joyu’s possible comeback, Aleph denied it has officially discussed the issue, saying, “Recent meetings (organized by Joyu) are not part of the activities the group has sanctioned.”

The defense counsel for Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has appealed against the death sentence handed down in February last year.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 17, 2014