The Aum Supreme Truth cult is split due to intensifying rivalry between members supporting its current leader, Fumihiro Joyu, and followers of its founder, Chizuo Matsumoto, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
According to sources, supporters of the 42-year-old Joyu and fundamentalist members who keep faith with Matsumoto, 50, are trying to win support from other Aum members to gain ascendancy. Matsumoto, commonly known as Shoko Asahara, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court last year.
The Metropolitan Police Department’s public safety section and other authorities have taken precautions in consideration of the growing division of the cult, which carried out the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 that killed 12 people and injured thousands.
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Public security authorities said Aum has effectively been run by Matsumoto’s followers since Joyu, who faced strong opposition from them, stepped down as the face of the cult in October 2003.
However, Joyu has begun showing an appetite to take over leadership of the cult as he reportedly said during meetings he called in autumn last year at Tokyo restaurants that he could help increase Aum’s revenues by conducting a promotional tour in regional areas.
Joyu also criticized Matsumoto’s followers by writing on his Web log, “They seem to act as if the incidents [caused by Aum members] never happened.”
In early October, about 10 Aum members who support Joyu submitted to the fundamentalist members a written statement calling for the removal of fanaticism from the group’s teachings.
Meanwhile, Matsumoto’s followers have rebelled against the move by the Joyu faction.
On the night of Aug. 11, about 10 members backing the guru reportedly visited a cult facility in Chiba Prefecture and demanded that the 39-year-old facility operator, believed to be close to Joyu, be dismissed and leave the facility.
Also, at a seminar in the summer, a senior Aum official made a comment apparently directed against Joyu, saying, “We have someone [in Aum] who has denied our guru and entered a den of iniquity.”
The Matsumoto faction has urged Aum members not to read Joyu’s blog, sources said.
With the two factions increasingly competing for leadership, a senior official of the MPD Public Security Department said, “We’re concerned about moves by radical members.”