TOKYO, Feb. 26–(Kyodo) — The current leader of the AUM Shinrikyo cult and his followers are set to announce at a meeting slated for early March that they will withdraw from the cult, founded by former leader Shoko Asahara who is now on death row, group members said Monday.
Fumihiro Joyu, 44, and others who are now critical of Asahara are planning to set up a new organization after completing procedures for leaving the cult within March, the members said.
The new body, whose name and date of establishment have not yet been decided, is expected to comprise about 60 live-in and 200 lay members, they said.
Although the cult has renamed itself Aleph, its roughly 400 live-in and 690 lay members are divided between the Joyu group and an anti-Joyu group whose members have declared their devotion to Asahara.
The two groups have used different facilities and financial resources since the spring of last year, they said.
Since around last November Joyu’s group has been scrapping educational materials promoting the personality cult of Asahara, and has prepared new materials based on Buddhist texts, they said.
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Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had his death sentence finalized in September last year for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, in which 12 people were killed, and other crimes.