The raid by the Public Security Intelligence Agency came a day after leader Fumihiro Joyu declared he had left Aum with 160 members to form a new sect that bans monotheistic belief, seeks spiritual healing and promotes positive contributions to society.
Joyu has claimed his group, Hikari no Wa (Ring of Light), had scorned the influence of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, but the agency found portraits of the guru at several of its facilities during the searches. One official said it indicates the new group is “still under Asahara’s influence.”
Investigators entered the Tokyo headquarters of the new group and about a dozen other facilities nationwide Thursday to scrutinize their activities.
The raid, based on a 1999 law on the surveillance of organizations feared to pose a threat to society, was part of the agency’s ongoing monitoring of the cult, the official said.
Despite the breakaway from Aum, the agency said Joyu’s group is also subject to surveillance under the law, and the group has complied with the agency’s policy.
The Supreme Court in September upheld the 2004 death sentence meted to Asahara for the 1995 subway sarin attack and other crimes that killed 27 people.
The agency also inspected facilities related to Aum to see what impact the split has had. This was the fourth round of nationwide inspections of Aum facilities and the first since those carried out in September immediately after the Supreme Court let stand Asahara’s death sentence.
Before the subway attack, Aum amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
It had also carried out a deadly sarin attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, apparently targeting a housing complex where judges hearing a land dispute case against the cult lived.
Aum renamed itself Aleph in 2000. Joyu, one of Asahara’s chief disciples, led it from 2002.
The group has split into factions in recent years, including one that remains close to Asahara’s family, allegedly posing a concern about public safety. Experts say Joyu’s breakaway only reflects infighting rather than his loss of devotion to Asahara.