The Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department has obtained documents showing that Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara ordered the cult’s name changed to “Aleph” in 1995, sources close to the bureau said Tuesday.
The cult changed its name from Aum to Aleph in January as part of its efforts to change its public image. , which included liquidation of the group’s assets. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and has also been used as the name of a company affiliated with the cult since 1996. Facing an imminent crackdown by security authorities, the cult announced the name change in January.
However, investigators suspect the new name was decided after taking Asahara’s order into consideration — a sign that contradicts the cult’s argument that it is no longer under the 45-year-old guru’s influence, the sources said.
The documents were confiscated during a February raid on the cult’s Yokohama branch. , which functions as the de facto headquarters, the sources said. According to the sources, the documents, dated November 1995, are believed to be based on a conversation between Asahara and his lawyer at the Tokyo Detention House.
Investigators believe the group also changed the name of the affiliated company to Aleph in 1996 under Asahara’s instructions.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for his alleged role in at least 17 major crimes, including masterminding the Tokyo nerve gas attack, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
The cult has defined Asahara as a “spiritual being,” but clarified that he no longer has the authority to direct the group’s members.