Split in AUM Shinrikyo Deepens As Leader Preparing to Leave Cult

TOKYO, March 3–(Kyodo) — Conflict inside AUM Shinrikyo has been deepening as the current leader of the cult, which was responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system, is preparing to leave the group with his followers while opposition members are set to name a new leader, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

Cracks have surfaced since leader Fumihiro Joyu expressed his intention to leave AUM, which renamed itself Aleph in 2000, within this month to set up a new organization with followers critical of the cult’s founder Shoko Asahara, who is now on death row for the 1995 gas attack that left 12 people dead and other charges.

Some members have created an anti-Joyu group and are likely to name Naruhito Noda as their new leader, the sources said. They have declared their devotion to Asahara and argue that his children should be regarded as his true heirs.

The two factions have been using different facilities and financial resources since the spring of last year.

Joyu, 44, and the group led by Noda, 40, held talks last month on issues including procedures for the planned appointment of a new leader and departure of the incumbent, the sources said.

The internal rift divided Aleph’s roughly 400 live-in and 690 lay members.

Joyu is expected to establish a new organization with about 60 live-in and 200 lay members who will use educational materials based on Buddhist texts as he has scrapped former practices that promoted the personality cult of Asahara.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had his death sentence finalized in September.

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