Justice Minister Backs Extension of AUM Surveillance Law

TOKYO, Nov. 12–(Kyodo) _ Justice Minister Chieko Nono said Friday that the law allowing surveillance of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, responsible for the deadly 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes, should be extended beyond December when it will be reviewed.

“The public sense of crisis has not been dispelled. I would like the law to be extended,” Nono said at a regular press conference.

The extension of the five-year law, instituted in December 1999, is being sought by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency, which says continued surveillance of AUM is needed because the group poses a danger and its members are uncooperative toward the agency.

The Judicial Affairs Division and Special Committee on Public Safety of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party held a joint session recently and also gave the go-ahead to extending the law.

“Given the recent activity of AUM Shinrikyo, I think it is necessary to conduct on-site inspections of the group’s facilities. Such inspections are still conducted relatively often,” Nono said.

The law was passed with a stipulation that it be reviewed every five years and abolished if there is no further need for it.

The law, which does not mention AUM by name, allows the agency to monitor any organization that has committed “indiscriminate mass murder in the past.”

It enables the police and security authorities to raid the facilities of such groups without a warrant, and to place restrictions on cult activities if deemed 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 its 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 month in which the first surveillance period was imposed on AUM.

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