Agency gets OK to monitor Aum

Request to use law to regulate dangerous groups granted in record time

The Aum Supreme Truth cult was officially put under the scrutiny of public security authorities Tuesday after the surveillance was approved in record time the day before.

The surveillance was approved under a law to regulate dangerous organizations.

The Public Security Examination Commission took only about a month to grant the permission after the Public Security Investigation Agency made the request.

The commission’s official decision became effective Monday in what was considered an unprecedented speeding up of procedures.

On Jan. 31, 1997, the commission turned down a request to dissolve the cult based on the Antisubversive Activities Law, a decision that a former Cabinet minister described as “extremely regrettable.”

After that the cult revitalized its activities and clashed with local residents in many places across the nation. The result was the enactment of two anti-Aum laws and the commission’s decision Monday.

While the agency prepares to carry out surprise inspections of cult facilities, the cult is struggling for survival. The battle between the agency and the cult appears to be entering a new phase.

In an attempt to invoke the Antisubversive Activities Law, the agency held six hearings at which the cult presented arguments in its defense over a half-year period.

While the commission pondered adoption of the law, the cult’s bankruptcy procedures progressed and suspects in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system were arrested.

The Antisubversive Activities Law includes a clause which obliges the commission to complete its examination within 30 days.

The recent proceedings under the new law progressed speedily in what a Justice Ministry official called “the shortest course.”

Aum took various measures to stave off becoming a target of the new law, including an admission for the first time that cult guru Chizuo Matsumoto, 44, also known as Shoko Asahara, may have been involved in a series of crimes. It also issued an apology to victims and presented a plan to compensate victims.

But on Jan. 21, cult followers allegedly abducted Matsumoto’s eldest son from an Aum facility.

An agency official said, “It is highly likely that internal conflicts over a future course of action caused by rapid and drastic reorganization are behind (the kidnapping). The incident unintentionally unveiled the cult’s dangerous nature.”

The agency, whose main mandate is collecting information, has no experience with on-the-spot raids. It has therefore been making preparations since November, when two bills were submitted to the Diet.

When the agency submitted its request to conduct surveillance, it targeted about 100 cult facilities for monitoring and drew up an inspection manual.

The agency assigned more than 100 inspectors to inspect Aum facilities and held lectures for them in mid-January.

During inspections, the agents will not be allowed to enter facilities using duplicate keys or to confiscate documents. In principle, however, they will be able to take photographs and make copies of documents.

A cult refusal to go along with the inspections will be grounds for the agency to adopt measures to prevent the recurrence of crimes, including prohibiting the cult from using the facilities. Thus, the agency is fine-tuning its inspection methods to cope with a variety of contingencies.

Aum also has been making its own preparations. The cult has sent e-mail to followers to coach them on their response to inspections and to warn them to act cautiously so as to avoid becoming the targets of preventive measures, according to sources close to the cult.

At a press conference Monday, commission Chairman Kozo Fujita said, “We decided that surveillance should be conducted as soon as possible because we recognize there is a danger that the cult will commit indiscriminate mass murder again.”

He expressed deep doubts about the sincerity of the the cult’s reform plans such as the name change and its presentation of a scheme to compensate victims and their bereaved families.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan
Feb. 29, 2000

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday February 29, 2000.
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