Edited articles on Aum Shinrikyo
|AUM uses sultry Net sirens to lure male members||Death demanded for Aum "doctor"||Cultists compensated|
|Surveillance of Aum to continue on grounds it still poses threat to public||Chino Shoho's quirks pose no threat: cultist||Death row cult member marries, police suspicious|
|Wandering cult wrapped in white befuddles Japan||Court upholds death for Japan subway terrorist||Cult admits it may have mixed up its Armageddon dates|
|Japanese Police Raid Doomsday Cult Premises||AUM senior member apologizes at conclusion of trial||Protesters call for Aum members' eviction|
|Prosecutors call for ex-AUM senior member Tsuchiya to hang||Japan Court to Rule on Doomsday Cult Guru in Feb||
Takayama city ordered to compensate
|Chino Shoho's quirks pose no threat: cultist||Aum members held over swindle|
Participants included municipal and prefectural assembly members who are calling for Aum, which now calls itself Aleph, to vacate two stories of a five-story building near JR Shin-imamiya Station that it took over June 1.
Aum's Osaka operations had previously been split between offices in the city of Suita and Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka. These premises were vacated after local citizens complained about the cult's presence.
"It is important to guard the rights of all people," said Osaka Municipal Assembly member Michihiro Kobayashi, who represents Nishinari. "However, in spite of the fact that members of Aum Shinrikyo have been arrested, the group has not disbanded. For the safety of Nishinari, we must oppose Aum's entry into the ward."
Nearly 60,000 signatures protesting the cult's presence in Nishinari have been gathered since mid-June, according to almost a dozen citizens' groups attending the protest. The groups said they will continue gathering signatures until they present the petition to Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura sometime next month.
Since moving into Nishinari, Aum has faced increasing pressure to leave. About 20 people are believed to be living in the building, but Aum members refused to provide exact figures or comment on the day's demonstration.
Several participants said they were especially worried that the group might try to recruit new members.
"I'm for freedom of religion, but this group is a cult," said Sumiko Morii, a 53-year-old resident who took part in the protest. "We are very worried about our children being approached by members of Aleph and being tricked into joining."
Prosecutors call for ex-AUM senior member Tsuchiya to hang
("Mainichi," July 14, 2003)
|Former senior AUM
Shinrikyo cult member Masami Tsuchiya, who played a vital role in the
cult's production of lethal gases, should be hanged for his involvement in
seven crimes including mass murder, prosecutors demanded Monday.
During a hearing held at the Tokyo District Court, a prosecutor pointed out that cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, masterminded the seven cases in which Tsuchiya was accused of involvement.
"In order to satisfy Matsumoto's desires, Tsuchiya conspired with other senior cult members to move forward with the cult's policy of justifying murders," a prosecutor said in a closing argument.
"He not only established a method of mass-producing sarin gas but also developed chemical weapons, including poison-gas weapons, while knowing that they would be used for murder," the prosecutor said.
Tsuchiya, 38, has admitted to his role in the cult's production of sarin and VX, another lethal nerve gas, but denied he conspired with Asahara and other cult members.
At the same time, he clarified his loyalty to Asahara and argued that he does not think AUM carried out one of the seven cases -- a deadly sarin attack in the Nagano Prefecture city of Matsumoto in 1994 that killed seven local residents.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has charged Tsuchiya with murder, attempted murder and harboring a criminal in the seven cases. They include the sarin attack in Matsumoto and a similar attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 that left 12 people dead and thousands of others ill.
Tsuchiya headed the cult's so-called "chemical team" that produced sarin and VX gas as well as other chemical weapons.
His trial has dragged on for much longer than that of other senior AUM members involved in the cult's terrorist activities because he twice dismissed his defense teams since the court procedure opened in November 1995. Tsuchiya also refused to enter a plea on all seven charges filed against him.
A Japanese court plans to hand down a verdict in the
trial of the doomsday cult guru accused of masterminding a deadly gas attack
on Tokyo subways next February -- nearly nine years after the event shocked
Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for Aum Shinri Kyo leader Shoko Asahara over the sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 people and harmed more than 5,000 in 1995. The attack shattered the image of Japan as a crime-free society.
"We've told both sides that if the trial proceeds as scheduled, the ruling would be delivered on February 27," an official at the Tokyo District Court said on Friday. Asahara, 48, faces 12 other charges, including the masterminding of a nerve gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and hurt 144.
Prosecutors and Asahara's lawyers have said they would accept the date, which will be officially set after the final defense plea in court on October 30 and 31, he said.
Prosecutors demanded in April that Asahara be sentenced to death, saying: "It was indiscriminate terrorism and it is the most atrocious and nasty offence in the history of crimes."
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has pleaded not guilty.
In a rare move to speed up Japan's oft-criticized snail-paced court proceedings, prosecutors had dropped four counts against Asahara. The doomsday cult case has run for more than seven years already -- not unusual for high-profile trials in Japan.
Nine cult members have already been sentenced to death and have all launched appeals, which Asahara would also be entitled to.
The doomsday cult, which Asahara set up in 1987, at one point attracted a 15,000-member following in Japan. In the past, it preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for calamities.
According to the Public Security Investigation Agency, there were still 1,650 Aum followers in Japan and some 300 believers in Russia as of last December.
The cult has changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- and insists it is now a benign religious group.
Earlier this year, the public security agency secured a three-year extension to keep up strict surveillance of the cult, as it was still deemed to pose a threat to the public.
Cult wins residency battle
("Mainichi," June 26, 2003)
|Japan's top court
on Thursday disqualified local governments from refusing AUM Shinrikyo
members' residency in their areas in a landmark ruling on the issue.
The Supreme Court's decision will force many local governments across Japan to review their stance in dealing with the controversial cult since they can no longer reject residency applications from AUM members.
Residential locations of AUM members has been an ongoing social issue, with the group asking courts to revoke local governments' decisions not to accept their residency applications in 16 areas throughout the country.
The top court specifically ordered Tokyo's Suginami-ku and Naka-ku, Nagoya, to accept applications from AUM members. "If (AUM members) move into the areas, the local governments concerned cannot refuse their residency notification," a judge presiding over the two cases said.
Officials in both Suginami-ku and Naka-ku had insisted that local governments were authorized to receive or reject residency applications because they have a duty to protect the health and safety of the local residents.
Hiroshi Yamada, ward chief of Suginami, was furious about the top court's decision.
"The court doesn't understand local residents' anxiety (about AUM members' moving in)," Yamada said. "I want the national government to think about fundamental measures to help solve the issue."
Hiroshi Araki, a top spokesman for the cult, kept a low profile.
"The residency problem is related to a series of past crimes (committed by AUM members), for which I now make an apology," said Araki. "We have sent letters to local governments where our members have filed lawsuits over their residency, asking them to reach an out-of-court settlement."
Several local governments such as Tokyo's Setagaya-ku and Adachi-ku have allowed AUM members to move in after courts ordered them to do so.
But Setagaya officials now subsidize local residents who keep an eye on AUM members' activities in their ward.
The issue is complicated because AUM members tabled their residency applications in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, even though they don't actually live there.
The Yashio Municipal Government previously decided to allow cult members to move in and to pay compensation for initially rejecting their applications. But now the city insists that it doesn't have to pay damages in a lawsuit it filed because some AUM members who had their applications rejected actually reside in other prefectures.
Police also searched several locations, including an Aum facility in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.
Those arrested were identified as Akira Hori, 43, head of Aum's Osaka branch; Nobuyuki Handa, 38; and Eiichiro Motomura, 38.
They are suspected of swindling about 400 books on medicine and religion and about 10 computer software applications from the 31-year-old man on Oct. 14.
They allegedly told the man the items should be discarded because they were possessed by the devil. Police say the three took the books and software to a used book seller and sold them for cash the same day.
The man was first approached by Aum members in September 2000 while he was browsing through the religion section of a bookstore in Osaka's Umeda district, according to police. At their invitation, he began to frequent Aum facilities, including a yoga class.
He was quoted as telling police he does not consider himself a follower, and that he began to sense something was wrong with him mentally as he went to Aum-related sites. Aum, whose members were convicted of committing several heinous crimes in the early and mid-1990s, renamed itself Aleph in 2001.
In late April, the weekly newsmagazine Shukan Bunshun began a series of articles calling the cottages "satyams," a term the infamous Aum Shinrikyo coined for its residences. But these articles were about the cult Chino Shoho.
The articles appeared just as a mysterious group of people clad all in white began to attract nationwide media attention by wandering about central Japan in a caravan of white-painted vehicles, occasionally occupying mountain roads. The group called itself Pana Wave Laboratory and claimed to be Chino Shoho's "scientific arm."
Shukan Bunshun also speculated that the group was attempting to capture the popular stray seal Tama-chan from a river in Yokohama and bury it in their cottage compound in Oizumi.
The complex then came under constant monitoring by dozens of reporters seeking to uncover the connection between the landowner and Pana Wave -- and what they had to do with the seal, which in March evaded capture by a U.S.-based animal protection group that had received financial support from the landowner, Chino Shoho member Eitaro Moriya.
The owner of a clothing retail chain of 12 stores in Niigata Prefecture, the 66-year-old Moriya began building the cottages last October. He said they were intended as a place where he and his wife and sons could spend their summers.
He said he wanted the villas to serve as quiet second homes, but the media frenzy and local residents' fears over his connection with the group have stymied that plan.
As a senior follower of Chino Shoho, Moriya served as president of L.R. Publications in Tokyo, which has published books and magazines on messages by the cult's founder, Yuko Chino, 69.
"We can no longer go out to restaurants in this village, as people look at us as if we are potential criminals," Moriya said in an interview with The Japan Times. "What we believe and do may appear strange to the public, but why is it that a group that has not committed any crimes be subject to so much bashing?"
The roughly 40 members in the Pana Wave Laboratory caravan explained they were protecting Chino from electromagnetic waves and were moving from place to place to avoid them.
Moriya said the members dress in white from head to toe and drive white vehicles because this protects Chino from "persistent attacks by an unidentified enemy" armed with the "Scalar Wave," which they also call "extended electromagnetic waves."
Although Chino Shoho had no known connection with criminal activity, the cultists' radical attire and Chino's past doomsday messages meant it would not be long before the media associated it with Aum, whose members committed several heinous crimes, including the deadly 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system and a 1994 nerve gas attack.
'Aum in its early days'
The intense media coverage that dogged the group's every meandering move subsided once the Pana Wave caravan resettled at its headquarters in the city of Fukui in mid-May.
But Moriya said his business in Niigata suffered greatly after the local media featured photos and video footage of his shops there in their coverage of the cult.
"It has been more than a decade since our leader, Chino, began her exile, but (the caravan) previously had no trouble with the public or the media," Moriya said. "I came to realize it is the essence of the media business to raise public hysteria."
Moriya filed a suit against Shukan Bunshun late last month, demanding 10 million yen in damages.
To win local residents' approval to stay in Oizumi, Moriya had to sign a written oath with the village office last month, promising he will never invite the all-white caravan and will allow villagers to look in on the cottages and use them for meetings and small events if they so wish.
The caravan also signed a similar oath with a residents' group in Fukui, pledging not to host a large gathering at their headquarters and vowing to downsize the number of people living at the site from the current 50.
According to Moriya, Chino Shoho developed a distinctive identity under Yuko Chino, whom the cult regards as the "last messiah to succeed Buddha, Moses and Jesus."
Though it is not registered as a publicly authorized religious organization, the sect has been around in one form or another since 1977, when Chino published her first book of messages.
Chino's mother was a member of God Light Association, an occult group that expanded rapidly in the 1970s. After the group's founder died in 1976, some of its members gathered under Chino to form a new cult.
Its publications say Chino is able to communicate with good spirits in celestial spheres. Her messages are distributed to members in the form of essays, articles and poems through the monthly magazine L.R.
Members of the group do not consider Chino Shoho a religion, arguing that it lacks collective discipline, never asks its members for donations and never encourages them to propagate their beliefs to outsiders.
The group currently has about 1,000 members who pay a 6,000 yen yearly subscription fee for the monthly magazine. About 200 of them, who have time or money, volunteer to carry out what Chino Shoho considers good deeds, such as joining the Pana Wave caravan, Moriya said.
Others lead regular lives and just read Chino's message in the monthly magazine, he said.
UFOs, Satan, occult
After Chino reportedly fell ill in the early 1990s, the group established Pana Wave Laboratory in Fukui in 1994 to conduct "scientific research on the Scalar Wave." They believe electromagnetic waves are a key future energy source to replace fossil fuels and can be used as a weapon of mass-destruction, which, they claim, the United States and Russia have secretly developed as national projects.
Chino Shoho is also keen on conspiracy theories, claiming it has been attacked by communist agents and forces out to control the Scalar Wave.
It also runs an ultraconservative political organization and a mail-order firm for its members.
The strange combination of spiritualism, science fiction and political conservatism somehow coexist in the minds of the cultists, making it difficult for outsiders to share their views. The members said although their notions may appear strange, they are only exercising their freedom of thought and pose no threat to society.
Look out, Tama-chan
"I guess we underestimated the popularity of Tama-chan," said Moriya, who admitted he provided financial support for the failed operation to capture the seal in March.
Moriya said the operation was launched by a former member of Chino Shoho who "took very seriously (Yuko Chino's) sympathy for the seal, which was living in polluted rivers."
It was also based on advice from foreign environmentalists, he said, claiming the group had planned to take the seal to an aquarium in northern Japan with which it had been in contact.
Chino Shoho, Pana Wave and Aum Shinrikyo all embrace apocalyptic theories. Chino has often warned in her writings that doomsday is approaching, though the message sounds much less consistent and specific than the preachings of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, who is now on trial for mass murder.
The essence is that doomsday began in the 1970s and since then, every individual has been requested to follow their conscience before it is too late, according to Moriya's 33-year-old son, also a Chino Shoho adherent.
Some members of the caravan also mentioned doomsday, reflecting their fear that the Scalar Wave, in the form of industrial pollutants, has been undermining the "Earth's core," the son said.
"Aum talked of doomsday to trigger public fears and boast its relevance, but have we ever attempted to appeal to the public for these purposes?" he asked.
Was police probe overkill?
The suspected offense, widely seen as an excuse for police to gather information on the group, is that the cult had one of its former member register the vehicles under his name although they were to be used by the group.
Moriya said he and other key members of Chino Shoho have since been repeatedly questioned by police.
"After Aum, it seems both the government and public feel they can do anything they want to anyone they perceive as strange," Moriya said. "But being unusual doesn't necessarily mean being wrong, and I always believe what Chino says is right."
The members claim Chino has long suffered from cancer as a result of constant electromagnetic wave attacks, and many of them believe she doesn't have long to live.
"If our leader Chino passes away, we no longer need to wear white clothes, or to go on a journey of exile in the caravan," Moriya's son said.
Death row cult member marries, police suspicious
("Mainichi Daily," June 7, 2003)
|A former AUM
Shinrikyo cult senior member Tomomitsu Niimi, who is appealing a death
sentence he has been handed for his roles in mass murder cases committed
by the cult, has registered his marriage to a cult follower, Tokyo police
Investigators suspect Niimi, 39, married the woman in a bid to use her as a messenger between him and the cult, noting that only relatives can visit the defendant once he is put in prison.
Since he is appealing the ruling to a high court, Niimi is still in a detention center.
The cult denied his marriage was aimed at securing communication channels with cult leaders. "The sect can't make a decision on such a personal matter. The woman is not an active member of the cult," Hiroshi Araki, public relations manager of the cult, said.
The defense lawyer for Niimi declined to comment on the revelations. In December last year, Niimi registered his marriage to a follower who was developing computer software at a cult-affiliated company, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Public Security Division.
During a raid on a cult facility in spring last year, the division confiscated documents showing that Niimi frequently communicated with the cult's headquarters over how to run the organization.
One of the documents clearly demonstrated that Niimi was asking cult leaders to introduce to him a woman he could marry.
Defense lawyers can legally meet their clients at detention centers. Under the Prison Law, however, only relatives can meet those who have been placed in prisons after the Supreme Court dismisses their appeals or they give up appealing the sentences on them.
In 2000, AUM Shinrikyo declared that it would break off relations with cult followers who failed to express their regret over involvement in crimes masterminded by cult founder Shoko Asahara.
However, Niimi declared throughout his trial that he still follows Asahara, 48, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. The MPD Public Security Division believes that the cult's declaration is just a lie aimed at making itself look clean of criminal activities.
Niimi has been slapped with a death sentence for his involvement in a series of crimes committed by the cult, including a 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains that left 12 people dead and sickened thousands of others.
The weeklong standoff was resolved with little more than a
show of force and the issuing of parking tickets. But it riveted Japan and
served as a reminder that cults such as Aum, which set up strongholds in the
countryside and carried out a deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways in
1995, continue to thrive.
The timing of the standoff was almost as spooky as the white-draped landscapes.
Just days before, prosecutors closed their case against Aum's guru, Shoko Asahara, who reportedly ordered the subway gassing to provoke an apocalypse he predicted only his followers would survive. He faces the death penalty for the attack, which killed 12 and left thousands sick.
No link between Aum and Pana Wave is suspected, and the standoff was non-violent.
The caravan, believed to carry the group's ailing guru, has moved around western Japan since 1994. Before arriving here, about 160 miles west of Tokyo, it spent almost eight months on a desolate stretch of road in a neighboring state.
The cult says it seeks refuge from deadly electromagnetic
waves generated by power lines and controlled by "left-wing elements." It
believes white fabric helps neutralize the waves.
According to cult watchers and media reports quoting police sources, Pana Wave was founded under a different name around 1977 by Yuko Chino, a self-proclaimed prophet who preaches a blend of Christianity, Buddhism and New Age doctrines.
The group reportedly owns property in several rural areas and once claimed several thousand members. Estimates of its membership range from several hundred to 1,200.
Pana Wave says attacks by electromagnetic waves have left Chino, who is believed to be in the most heavily guarded van in the caravan, with terminal cancer.
Her death, according to cult literature, would deprive humanity of its only hope for salvation.
Chino has prophesied that a 10th planet approaching Earth will bring massive earthquakes, giant tidal waves and other cataclysmic changes as early as this summer.
"This is a cult in its terminal phase," said Taro Takimoto, an attorney who is part of a national network advising cult victims.
"Its delusions are getting deeper, and it appears less concerned about run-ins with the outside world."
Court upholds death for Japan subway terrorist
("Mainichi," May 19, 2003)
|A top AUM Shinrikyo member
who played a leading role in the cult's 1995 poison gas attack on the
Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people had his appeal against the death
sentence rejected Monday.
"It was an inhumane crime of an unprecedented scale ... the defendant must bear a grave responsibility." Presiding Judge Kunio Harada said at the Tokyo High Court that upheld the death penalty handed to Masato Yokoyama.
Yokoyama's lawyers argued that capital punishment was too heavy by pointing to the fact that no one died in the carriage where he sprayed the deadly sarin gas. The defense team also claimed that 48-year-old Yokoyama was under the mind control of AUM guru Shoko Asahara.
However, Harada rejected these arguments. "Although it turned out that no one died as a result of the defendant's actions, the death sentence is unavoidable," the judge said. "We cannot conclude that the defendant is not showing remorse, but the level of his apparent remorse shown is not enough to downgrade his punishment."
Yokoyama has remained silent in the dock since the middle of his trial at the Tokyo District Court. He did not utter a word during Monday's proceeding.
Court documents showed that Yokoyama was one of the AUM members who released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000 people.
He was also found guilty of illegally manufacturing automatic rifles from 1994 to 1995.
The world did not end this week - a relief for most of us. But for Pana Wave, the strange and possibly dangerous white-clad Japanese cult that made the prediction, things could not have been worse.
It was all meant to be over on Thursday, when the unknown 10th planet approached the Earth, causing the globe to tip and triggering a massive earthquake.
But as the clock ticked over into Thursday in Japan, the only things that had approached were drenching spring rains and the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, in town for North Korean talks. Pana Wave had mentioned neither in its Armageddon predictions.
To be sure, at the start of the week, there had been an earthquake that shook awake Tokyoites, who are waiting for the next Big One - the devastating earthquake expected one day in the capital.
For Pana Wave devotees, there may have been a fleeting "we told
you so" moment, albeit a few days ahead of schedule. But the only casualty was a
boy who suffered a broken arm when he fell out of bed.
One cult member was reported as saying that the end of the world had been delayed for a week. Pana Wavians, however, have suffered irreversible damage to their credibility.
Armageddon aside, the reaction of the Japanese to Pana Wave continues to swing between amused and disturbed. There was the idea posted on the popular Two Channel chatroom that people should dress in black and surround the cultists with wave-emitting mobile phones and microwave ovens.
But there is also the darker side of the Pana Wave story. At the back of everyone's mind is the doomsday cult Aum that attacked Tokyo's subway system with sarin gas in 1995. So, on the eve of the predicted Armageddon, police searched the cult's vehicles and facilities. The justification was that a false name had been used to register three of the cult's vehicles. But authorities were also looking for more information about the cult.
Then there were the 10 bolts removed from a disaster prevention radio mast. A letter was sent to a national newspaper warning that unless the media stopped its coverage of Pana Wave, the mast would be toppled.
Finally, what of Tama-chan, the Arctic seal living in Tokyo's murky rivers that the cult believed it should rescue to save the world? As Thursday approached, it was spotted frolicking unperturbed - free of the fish hook that had recently lodged in its eye.
Japanese police on Wednesday raided buildings occupied by a doomsday cult that government officials have likened to Aum Shinrikyo, the group that carried out a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway eight years ago.
The search was an attempt to gauge the potential threat posed by the white-clad group, Japanese media said, although for now the cult is being investigated only on suspicion of the minor offence of registering vehicles under a false name.
"The search is nationwide, but we cannot link it to any other offences," said a spokesman for Tokyo police.
The cult, which calls itself Pana Wave Laboratory, is reported to have said it expects the world to end later this month and that communists are trying to kill 69-year-old group leader Yuko Chino by using electromagnetic waves.
"We are being attacked by communists," Chino told Japanese television in her first-ever interview, conducted inside the narrow van, strewn with pillows, that has been her home in recent weeks. "We will fight back."
Graying hair falling to her shoulders, Chino alternated comments about how she had used a special moisturizing cream to minimize her wrinkles for the camera with apocalyptic predictions of the end of the world.
"Within a year the Earth will be destroyed and neither Japan nor humankind will exist," she said, when asked about the future of the cult. "I think the question of our group disbanding is not an issue."
Pana Wave's convoy of white vehicles became a fixture on Japanese television in recent weeks as it made its way around the countryside, frequently being physically barred from entering towns and villages by nervous residents.
Cult members surrounded themselves with huge white sheets whenever their convoy came to a halt, saying this would protect them from the electromagnetic waves.
Pana Wave Laboratory's headquarters are in Fukui, 200 miles west of Tokyo.
Chino recently released a statement urging people to protect Tama-chan, a bearded seal that has become a national mascot since appearing in rivers near Tokyo, far from its natural habitat in the icy Bering Sea. Domestic media reports have expressed concern that Pana Wave Laboratory was hoping to capture the animal.
Earlier this month, Japan's national police chief, Hidehiko Sato, referred to the cult's behavior as "grotesque" and reminiscent of the early days of Aum Shinrikyo.
Aum Shinrikyo, which also preached that the world was coming to an end, killed 12 people and injured 5,000, many severely, when members carried out a saran gas attack on the busy Tokyo subway system in 1995.
AUM senior member apologizes at conclusion of trial
("Mainichi," May 12, 2003)
|The trial of former AUM
Shinrikyo senior member Tomomasa Nakagawa concluded Monday after he
apologized for his involvement in a series of crimes committed by the cult
including the Tokyo subway gassing that killed 12 people.
"I've been disqualified as a human being, as a doctor and as a religionist," Nakagawa, 40, told the Tokyo District Court. "Mr. (cult founder and former leader Shoko) Asahara murdered a large number of people. I devoted myself to supporting him. I apologize to those affected by the crimes."
The court is set to hand down a ruling on Nakagawa on Oct. 29. Prosecutors are demanding the death penalty for Nakagawa for his involvement in 11 crimes masterminded by Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
The crimes he was accused of having been involved in include a sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995 that killed 12 people and sickened thousands of others and the murder of anti-AUM lawyer Tsutumi Sakamoto, his wife and their infant son in 1989.
The defense counsel for Nakagawa asked for leniency during the last hearing Monday on the grounds that he did not play a leading role in the crimes and that he was nearly insane at the time. The lawyer added that Nakagawa had no choice but to carry out the crimes on the orders of Asahara.
Prosecutors countered that Nakagawa, as a high-ranking member of the cult, played an important role in these crimes
uses sultry Net sirens to lure male
("Mainichi," January 29, 2003)
AUM Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, is getting women to use controversial Internet matchmaking sites to lure new men into the group, the Mainichi has learned.
Amorous AUM members from the cult's Nagoya base apparently pretend to be interested in meeting men's desires for female companionship, but instead use their seduction to get the men into the cult.
Aichi police's public safety officials say the cult has been using the lecherous lures since it began something of a comeback in the autumn of 2001. They are unaware of how many men the AUM sirens have lured into their clutches.
AUM vehemently denies the allegations.
"It's true AUM uses its website and the writings of leader (Fumihiro) Joyu to put forth news about its activities, but the group does not use matchmaking sites to secure new members, nor are believers instructed to do so," cult mouthpiece Hiroshi Araki said.
Police quoted a recent example of a man who used his mobile phone to respond to a message posted in a matchmaking site by a woman saying that she was lonely and wanted somebody to talk to. The woman replied and agreed to meet him.
When he turned up at the appointed time, there were two women waiting for him. The three went to a nearby cafe, where the women told him they were about to head off to a yoga class and invited him to join them.
The man went to the class, discovered that he enjoyed yoga and became a regular. The woman he originally contacted through the matchmaking site approached him and asked if he would like to meet Joyu. Shocked -- Joyu was a fixture on Japanese TV until his arrest in 1995 as he vehemently denied AUM involvement in the deadly subway gassing -- the man back off, only to relent when the woman told him that she felt an introduction to Joyu would allow him to study yoga at a more advanced level.
He was taken to a monthly meeting where the cult leader read sutras. He began attending these meetings without fail and became a member of the cult. He soon developed doubts about the authenticity of AUM's teachings, however, and left the group.
AUM members have been convicted for several crimes in addition to the subway attack. Several members sit on Death Row while cult guru Shoko Asahara is in the Tokyo Detention Center while his murder trial continues.
by Yomiuri Shimbun ("The Daily Yomiuri," January 29, 2003)
Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded the death penalty for a former senior member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult for his alleged involvement in a series of murders committed by the doomsday cult, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Tomomasa Nakagawa, 40, the "doctor" of Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, 47, also known as Shoko Asahara, is being tried at the Tokyo District Court on 11 charges, including murder and attempted murder.
Nakagawa has pleaded not guilty, saying he did not know what purpose the sarin nerve gas would be used for in the subway attack.
Prosecutors said Nakagawa played a central role in the attack as a close aide to Matsumoto and was involved in most of the criminal acts committed by the cult.
Prosecutors detailed how Nakagawa allegedly developed the deadly gas with another former senior Aum member, Seiichi Endo, 42, who has appealed his conviction on charges of murder and attempted murder in five cases to a higher court after being sentenced to death in October.
Regarding the June 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, prosecutors said it was clear that Nakagawa was well aware of how lethal the gas was, although he claimed sarin was not necessarily fatal.
Prosecutors said Nakagawa was trying to mislead the court by skillfully repeating lies.
The Mito District Court On Wednesday ordered the Mito city government to pay a total of 600,000 yen to two members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult for rejecting their applications to register as residents in December 2001.
The 36-year-old and 54-year-old male cultists had filed a lawsuit demanding 2 million yen in compensation.
Handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Hidemi Senba said the two were emotionally distressed because their application to register as residents was illegally rejected despite their living in the city.
According to the ruling, the two had difficulty leading their lives as they were not able to register their personal seals or renew their driver's licenses because of the rejection by the city government.
The Public Security Investigation Agency has asked the commission to extend the surveillance period beyond Jan. 31, when the current surveillance authority lapses. It believes that the cult, which launched a fatal gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, is still a threat to the public and is capable of indiscriminate mass murder.
The commission is headed by Kozo Fujita, a former Hiroshima High Court president. It is discussing in detail its decision and is expected to make a formal decision as early as Monday. The decision will be announced in the government gazette at the end of January.
The cult, renamed Aleph in January 2000, is considered likely to file a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding a revocation of the extension if it is made official.
The Public Security Investigation Agency asked the security commission on Dec. 2 for permission to extend the surveillance.
The agency argued that Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, accused of masterminding the sarin gas attack on the subway system and currently jailed while on trial, still wields power over the cult and can order indiscriminate mass killings.
Aleph is currently headed by Fumihiro Joyu, a former senior Aum official.
The agency also argued that high-ranking cultists, including Joyu, who were senior members at the time of the subway attack, are still active. It added that Aum advocated a secret doctrine ordering followers to kill.
Acting under the current surveillance authority, the agency has kept 88 Aum facilities in 16 prefectures under watch since February 2000. It has submitted some 400 pieces of evidence to support its belief that the sect remains a threat.
Aleph filed a petition on Dec. 24 with the security commission asking it to reject the surveillance extension. On Jan. 8, Joyu met with members of the security commission at the Justice Ministry in a closed hearing and argued that his group no longer poses the threat of mass killings.
In making its case, the group said it has taken steps to prevent a repeat of such an attack and the surveillance has outlived its usefulness.
Matsumoto, 47, is commonly known as Shoko Asahara. He has been on trial since April 1996 for his role in the March 20, 1995, subway attack that left 12 people dead and thousands injured, as well as for other crimes attributed to Aum. He denies the charges.