Lawyer recounts Aum Shinrikyo cult victims in memoir

Lawyer Saburo Abe, the court-appointed administrator overseeing the Aum Supreme Truth cult’s bankruptcy, recently published an autobiography titled “Wishes at Different Times,” which reflects his career of nearly half a century.

Born in Miyagi Prefecture, Abe, 81, became a lawyer in 1954 and later held prominent positions such as chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Since March 1996, Abe has served as bankruptcy administrator of the cult to help its victims. When he retired from his post as chairman of the board of directors at Chuo University–his alma mater–after a six-year stint in November 2005, he decided to take up his pen to write the memoir.

He recounted his efforts in the 1960s to push the government to abandon the blood-selling system as his fundamental achievement in putting priority on what he called “field work.” In the past, some people died from excessive blood selling. Others contracted serious illnesses through transfusions of tainted blood that had been bought. Abe thought the system was a double violation of human rights, harming both sellers and recipients.

He disguised himself as a laborer and sold his own blood to conduct a fact-finding survey. He then compiled a proposition through the bar association’s human rights protection committee and submitted it to the concerned ministries, urging the abandonment of the blood-selling system.

He describes his work as the cult’s administrator as the culmination of his career, on which he staked his life. He conducted thorough investigations of the cult’s assets to increase the compensation for the individual victims of the crimes committed by the cult. Abe also lobbied lawmakers to enact the bill allowing the government to drop claims against the cult to increase the compensation for the victims.

Meanwhile, he actively campaigned for the children of the cult’s followers, who were rejected from schools, saying, “As a lawyer, I cannot accept the discrimination of rejecting children from schools based on the fact that they are the children of followers.” Abe persuaded communities and local governments to accept the children into schools until the cult vacated its facilities in the locality.

In October, Abe said the cult’s bankruptcy proceedings would be completed in March 2008, marking end of his 12 years of work as the cult’s administrator. However, he said the compensation process was only half done. He plans to continue activities to help Aum’s victims, such as lobbying lawmakers to enact a bill under which the state would shoulder compensation payments on behalf of Aum, which has renamed itself Aleph, and collect debts from the group.

“A lawyer should carve out his own field on the job. A lawyer should not give up on finding a solution because there is no law that binds. First, you should try to tackle the problem, then if it doesn’t work, you should try to find another way,” Abe said. That is the message he wanted to convey in his memoir.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 29, 2007.
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