TOKYO: The leader of a doomsday cult that released deadly nerve gas into Tokyo’s subway system in 1995 told Japanese authorities Monday he will set up a new group in an effort to distance followers from their jailed founder, an official and media reports said.
Fumihiro Joyu — who succeeded the mastermind of the attacks, Shoko Asahara, in 2002 — visited the Public Security Intelligence Agency Monday, said an agency spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity, under agency protocol.
The spokesman refused to provided further details. No one answered at Aleph‘s office in Tokyo, despite repeated phone calls.
Quoting unidentified agency officials, Kyodo News agency said Joyu formerly notified the agency that he and up to 60 followers will leave the Aum Shinrikyo.
The new group’s name and when it would be formed, was yet to be determined, the report said.
In September 2006, Japan’s top court upheld a 2004 death sentence for Asahara for the 1995 subway gassing and a string of other attacks that killed 27 people. The execution of the 52-year-old convict has yet to be carried out.
Joyu, 44, who used to be Asahara’s top lieutenant, has planned to discard texts and videos carrying Asahara’s teachings and renovate training centers.
In the past few years, the cult has been divided between the Joyu faction and those close to Asahara’s family.
Asahara’s group, previously known as Aum Shinrikyo, was renamed Aleph in 2000.
Japanese police, however, suspect Aleph still follows Asahara’s teachings, and the group remains under close surveillance by the Public Security Intelligence Agency.
Mar. 5, 2007