TOKYO, Nov. 25–(Kyodo) _ The Public Security Intelligence Agency filed a request Friday with the Public Security Examination Commission to keep the AUM Shinrikyo cult under surveillance for another three years.
The agency, an organization under the Justice Ministry, filed the request on the grounds that Shoko Asahara, the cult’s founder accused of having masterminded the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, still wields influence over the group.
The surveillance, initially imposed on AUM in January 2000 and extended in February 2003, is set to expire at the end of January next year.
Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February last year for his role in 13 criminal cases including the fatal sarin attack. His defense counsel has appealed to the Tokyo High Court.
The commission will decide by mid-January on whether to extend the surveillance after hearing AUM’s opinions and examining the document the agency filed for the extension. AUM has renamed itself Aleph.
The commission would examine whether Asahara still wields power over AUM and whether the cult poses a threat of engaging in mass murder.
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The law for restricting the activities of certain groups, which went into effect in December 1999, allows authorities to keep watch over groups that pose a threat to the public. It stipulates that the surveillance period for such a group may be extended if someone who has engineered indiscriminate mass killings continues to have influence with the group.
The agency said in its document that Asahara is still considered AUM’s leader and its members still believe in him.
It noted that Asahara and five others allegedly involved in the sarin attack are still members of AUM and that the group still maintains a doctrine that allows murder.
It also said that it would become difficult to know AUM’s activities if the surveillance is terminated.
Since the previous extension, the security agency has conducted about 90 on-site inspections at numerous AUM facilities.
Extending the surveillance period on AUM would make it possible for the agency’s inspectors to continue to carry out on-site checks at the cult’s facilities and oblige AUM to report the names and addresses of key members.
There are about 1,650 AUM members in Japan and about 300 followers in Russia, according to the agency.
A liaison group of municipalities where AUM facilities are located filed a petition with the Justice Ministry and the security agency in October this year, calling for a renewal of the surveillance period.