LDP Backs Extension of Surveillance Law on AUM Shinrikyo

TOKYO, Nov. 10–A ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to a plan to extend a law allowing surveillance of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, responsible for the deadly 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and other crimes, ahead of next month’s review of the law.

The extension of the five-year law, instituted in December 1999, is being sought by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency, which deems there is still a need for surveillance of AUM since the group poses a danger and its members are uncooperative with the agency.

The agency obtained support for the plan at a joint session of the LDP’s Judicial Affairs Division and Special Committee on Public Safety.

Although the 1999 law does not mention AUM by name, it is widely believed to target the cult. The law stipulates that it should be reviewed every five years and abolished if there is no further need for it.

The law allows the agency to monitor any organization that has committed “indiscriminate mass murder in the past.”

It enables police and security authorities to inspect the facilities of such groups without a warrant, and allows the authorities to limit cult activities if they deem it necessary.

It also requires such groups to report to the agency on the identities of its members.

AUM has tried to distance itself from the series of crimes committed by members including the sarin gas attacks in Nagano Prefecture in June 1994 and on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995.

It renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 — the same month the first surveillance period was imposed on AUM.

Acting on a request by the agency, the Public Security Examination Commission extended the surveillance period for AUM for another three years on Jan. 20, 2003, saying the cult is still capable of committing indiscriminate mass murder.

The cult took the case to court, filing its second lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court where it called for the annulment of the extended three-year surveillance. The court rejected the cult’s claim on Oct. 29.

The public relations department of Aleph described the court’s decision as a form of “malfeasance,” saying the court had recognized the danger of the cult without identifying any specific danger the cult poses. At the same time, the group vowed to continue to ease public concern about it.

Last year, Fumihiro Joyu, who now heads the cult, told the commission that he believes the group is making efforts to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents and that it has fulfilled its duty during the surveillance period.

So far, the agency has inspected 86 AUM facilities and provided results of its investigations to 39 municipal governments. Municipalities which hosted such facilities appealed Monday for the law to be extended.

The cult’s founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was given the death sentence for murder, attempted murder and other charges in 13 criminal cases that resulted in the death of 27 people. He remains in custody and his defense team is appealing against the ruling.

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