TOKYO, Sept. 16–(Kyodo) — Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency entered 25 AUM Shinrikyo cult facilities nationwide Saturday morning for inspections after its founder Shoko Asahara’s death sentence was finalized the day before.
The inspections to check for dangerous moves among cult members involved the most-ever 250 officials and are based on a law to place groups judged dangerous under state surveillance.
The raids were the third set of their kind targeting the cult, after those in February 2004 — just before the Tokyo District Court sentenced Asahara, 51, to death — and this April, after the Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal against the sentence.
On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a special appeal from Asahara’s defense counsel, finalizing his death sentence in connection with masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is the second cult leader whose death sentence has been finalized. The outcomes of the trials of 13 others are pending.
Legal experts say that considering Asahara may seek a retrial and the trials of his accomplices continue, his detention before his execution is expected to be prolonged.
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In Japan, death row inmates hanged between 1995 and 2004 spent an average seven years, six months in detention from the time their sentences were finalized to their execution.
AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.
According to the security agency, the cult had 1,650 followers as of the end of August. Of the nearly 450 followers arrested in a series of AUM-related cases, about 30 percent returned to the group, it said.