Aum asks for end to surveillance

Kyodo News (Japan), Jan. 9, 2003

TOKYO — The Aum Shinrikyo cult called on the Public Security Examination Commission on Wednesday to reject a government request for further surveillance of the sect, informed sources said.

Aum leader Fumihiro Joyu made the request to commission members at the Justice Ministry building in Tokyo, arguing that the group no longer poses the threat of committing indiscriminate mass killing as it once did.

An anti-Aum law enabling the surveillance of the cult, which was responsible for the deadly 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, stipulates the group must be left alone once the commission determines it no longer poses a danger to the public.

In making its case, the sources said, the group also said it has taken steps to prevent a repeat of such an attack and that the surveillance has thus lived out its usefulness.

The closed hearing, which lasted about an hour, was held at the discretion of the commission following the cult’s request to present its views orally, rather than in writing as laid out in the law.

Aum’s views were presented along the lines of an opinion it submitted to the commission Dec 24, the sources said.

The commission had asked the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Investigation Agency to also present its view in a similar hearing, but the security agency replied that documents it submitted would do to make its case, the sources said.

The commission will decide whether to renew the surveillance of the cult by the end of this month, when the current three-year surveillance expires.

If the extension is made, the group will sue to demand the commission repeal the decision, Aum members said.

Four people attended the hearing from the Aum side Wednesday, including a lawyer representing the group, while six members of the seven-member commission participated, according to the sources.

On Dec 2, the security agency filed a request with the commission to keep the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000, under surveillance for another three years.

In its request, the security agency said Shoko Asahara, the cult founder accused of having masterminded the attack on the Tokyo subway, “still wields power over the cult” and can order indiscriminate mass killings. Asahara’s real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

The gas attack left 12 people dead and thousands injured.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 10, 2003.
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