The Public Security Intelligence Agency raided 11 AUM Shinrikyo cult facilities across Japan on Tuesday and found what agency officials say is an internal document calling for a “calm response” in the face of the likelihood their founder Shoko Asahara, who has been convicted of masterminding the 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo, will be hanged.
The agency sees the document, dated March 30, as intended to contain growing anxiety among followers after the Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal against the March 27 death sentence given to Asahara, 51, who was charged with 13 crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The nationwide raid mobilizing about 160 officers covered facilities of the cult, which has renamed itself as Aleph, from Sapporo in the north to Fukuoka in the south. It was in conformity with a law to place dangerous groups under state surveillance, according to the agency.
It was the first raid since February 2004 — just before Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death in a district court ruling — and the second in scale after the February 2004 raid.
According to the agency, the internal document offered an account of Asahara’s trial and said, “Society’s interest is focused on the trial” and asked followers “to take full caution not to make any remarks or take actions that could cause misunderstanding” among the general public and to remain calm.
When questioned by agency officers during the raids, some members said they would just continue practicing the dogma that will remain even after the founder is put to death, while others said they would not tolerate the court decision, the officials said.
Asahara’s defense has filed an objection against the high court’s decision to let the death sentence stand.