TOKYO, Aug. 29–(Kyodo) — The fourth daughter of the AUM Shinrikyo cult founder has filed a request with the Saitama Family Court that journalist Shoko Egawa, who has exposed a series of AUM-related crimes through her work, be her legal guardian.
The 17-year-old daughter took the move Monday after she dismissed her existing legal guardian, Takeshi Matsui, who is a defense lawyer for her father Shoko Asahara, 51.
In June, Asahara’s defense counsel filed a special appeal at the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Tokyo High Court’s rejection of his appeal against the death sentence in 2004 for his involvement in various crimes including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
“I had some hesitation about becoming a legal guardian, but I want to offer my support, if only a little, for the daughter who wants to do her best in the society and to be helpful to others,” Egawa said at a press conference later in the day.
Explaining the daughter’s decision, a lawyer representing her said, “She wants to be independent of the cult and her family, but cannot realize her wish under the existing guardian.”
Egawa and others said Matsui was appointed by a different family court to be the daughter’s guardian in November 2000.
After a series of AUM-related incidents, the daughter had lived with her elder sister, younger brother and others but repeatedly ran away from home. She began living with her acquaintance in the Kanto region from around June.
The daughter wants to go to a medical school and has been studying for a qualification that equals a high school diploma, they said.
In July, the daughter sent an e-mail message to Egawa, saying, “I want to be free of the bondage of my family and the cult, but it’s been difficult. I also want to be economically independent.” She then filed a formal request to change her legal guardian.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death at the Tokyo District Court in February 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases that included two sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in 1995 and in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.
The gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system claimed the lives of 12 people and left more than 5,500 others injured. In the Matsumoto attack, seven people were killed and some 660 others were left ill.
AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.