TOKYO, Oct. 6–Victims of the March 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway and other crimes committed by the AUM Shinrikyo cult urged the government Wednesday to act swiftly and comprehensively on the issue of compensation, which remains unresolved after nine years.
“This is not simply about money. In order for the victims to recover, there is a need to stabilize their lives, and to do this, compensation is necessary,” said Shizue Takahashi, who represents a group of sarin gas victims and their families. Takahashi lost her husband, Kazumasa Takahashi, an assistant stationmaster at one of the subway stations.
Wednesday’s gathering at a Tokyo hall, attended by about 120 victims, supporters and media, comes ahead of the 10th anniversary next year of the March 20, 1995, gas attacks, considered the worst crime perpetuated by the cult as 12 people died and more than 5,500 were injured.
The meeting was the second of its kind following one held in June 1997 by victims of the subway attacks and another sarin attack carried out by AUM in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994, according to Takahashi.
In a statement issued at Wednesday’s meeting, the victims and their supporters renewed their call for the government to take responsibility and compensate victims, given the authorities’ failure to prevent AUM from carrying out the crimes.
Also attending the gathering was House of Representatives lawmaker Yoko Kamikawa, who introduced a plan to create a basic law on crime victims and submit it to the upcoming extraordinary Diet session in the fall.
Kamikawa, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, expressed her hope that the proposed law would clarify victims’ rights and enable the government to address issues relating to crime victims in a comprehensive way.
AUM, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 in an effort to distance itself from its crime-tainted image, was ordered to pay compensation to its victims. However, the cult is apparently short of funds, while those directly involved in the crimes do not have the capacity to pay.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has been sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court for the gas attacks and other crimes, and is now appealing his conviction. Many other senior AUM members have also been convicted or are appealing their sentences.