TOKYO, Oct. 15–(Kyodo) — Japan’s Public Security Investigation Agency intends to ask the Public Security Examination Commission to extend the surveillance period on the AUM Shinrikyo cult for another three years, informed sources said Friday.
The surveillance period is set to expire at the end of January.
The agency, an organization under the Justice Ministry, is expected to file the request in December on the grounds that Shoko Asahara, the cult’s founder, still wields influence over the group, they said.
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Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February last year for his role in 13 criminal cases including the fatal sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system. His defense counsel has appealed to the Tokyo High Court.
If the surveillance extension is approved, it will be the second time, following the first three-year extension based on the agency’s request to the commission filed in December 2002.
AUM has renamed itself Aleph.
Since the previous extension, the security agency has conducted more than 60 on-site inspections at numerous AUM facilities, and apparently has determined that continued surveillance is necessary, the sources said.
A law allowing authorities to keep watch on groups that pose a threat to the public stipulates that the surveillance period for such a group may be extended if someone who has engineered indiscriminate mass killings continues to have influence with the group.
Extending the surveillance period on AUM would make it possible for the agency’s inspectors to continue to carry out on-site checks at the cult’s facilities and oblige AUM to report the names and addresses of key members.
The legislation for restricting the activities of certain groups, which went into effect in December 1999, is intended to prevent groups that have carried out indiscriminate mass killings from repeating such acts by checking on their activities.
Authorities decided in January 2000 to place AUM under surveillance.