TOKYO, Jan. 19–(Kyodo)– The Public Security Examination Commission has decided to extend the surveillance period on the religious cult formerly known as AUM Shinrikyo, commission sources said Wednesday.
The Public Security Investigation Agency ask last November for another three-year extension after the current period expires at the end of this month, claiming Shoko Asahara, the cult’s founder who has been sentenced to death over the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and other crimes, still wields influence over the group.
The agency, a unit of the Justice Ministry, has also demanded that the cult, which has renamed itself Aleph, report to the agency about its profit-making businesses, saying it is gaining “a large amount of profits from illegal profit-making businesses.”
Some commission members, however, have questioned these additional actions over the group.
The commission has basically agreed to accept the agency’s request to extend the surveillance period, but will further discuss whether it will order the group to report on its businesses, the officials said.
The formal decision will be made Monday and will be published in the government gazette by Jan. 31, when the current surveillance period expires.
The law for restricting the activities of certain groups, which went into effect in December 1999, allows authorities to keep watch on 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 over the group.
It also requires the group to report the names of the senior and regular members as well as their addresses.
The agency said in the request that Asahara, 50, is still considered AUM’s leader and its members still believe in him. It also said the group still has “a doctrine to recommend killing people as a code of conduct.”
Fumihiro Joyu, a former senior AUM member who now heads the cult, and a cult lawyer expressed dissatisfaction with the possible extension of the surveillance during a hearing by the commission on Jan. 10, saying, “Reform (in the group) has been proceeding.”
They also said it is “unjust” to have the group make additional reports on its businesses.
The surveillance was initially imposed on AUM in January 2000 and extended in January 2003.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court for his role in 13 criminal cases including the fatal sarin attack. His defense counsel has appealed to the Tokyo High Court.