Leader of breakaway group vows to distance it from Japanese doomsday cult

TOKYO: The leader of a new group that has split from the doomsday cult that carried out deadly nerve gas attacks on Tokyo’s subways in 1995 said Thursday his group will distance itself from the cult’s jailed founder and his teachings.

Fumihiro Joyu, who succeeded cult guru Shoko Asahara as leader in 2002, said he and 57 other followers are leaving the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was renamed Aleph in 2000, to form a new group.

The breakaway group has not yet been named, Joyu told reporters at its headquarters in Tokyo.

In September, Japan’s top court upheld a 2004 death sentence for Asahara for the subway gassing and a string of other attacks that killed 27 people.

The cult, which once had 10,000 members in Japan and claimed another 30,000 in Russia, has split in recent years.

Authorities said last year that about 1,650 people in Japan and 300 in Russia continue to believe in Asahara’s teachings.

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Joyu, 44, who used to be Asahara’s top lieutenant, said his group will ban the use of teaching materials from the cult and will not give any status to Asahara.

“We will keep demanding that Asahara sincerely reflect on himself until his execution is carried out,” he said.

Before the subway attack, Aum amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.

About a dozen cult leaders have been sentenced to death, but most of the cases are under appeal.

Joyu said Aleph could not be disbanded, as some have suggested, because it is responsible for compensating victims of the gassing, and that his new group would shoulder part of the compensation.

Aleph remains under close surveillance by the Public Security Intelligence Agency.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday March 8, 2007.
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