Commission preserves Aum Shinrikyo from ban

Public Security Commission decided unanimously Jan. 31 to turn down a request to outlaw Aum Shinrikyo under the Antisubversive Activities Law.The seven-member commission, an extra-ministerial board of the Justice Ministry, had discussed whether the law, which was enacted in 1952, should be invoked against Aum. Shoko Asahara, founder of the cult, and his former lieutenants are now on trial in connection with a series of crimes, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subways.Since the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Investigation Agency sought the imposition of the law in July, the commission has examined whether Aum meets the three criteria necessary to be banned. The commission examined whether Aum had a political motive in the 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, whether the cult carried out the attack as a group and whether the cult poses a danger of carrying out future terrorist attacks.The document was delivered to the security agency and the cult the same day. The decision took effect when it arrived at the agency.After months of closed-door deliberations, the commission signed a document that concludes that evidence of “future danger” is not sufficient enough to invoke the law, the commission’s chairman, Katsuji Hotta, said in a news conference held later Jan. 31. To invoke the law against a group, the agency must prove that there is a clear danger that the group will carry out terrorist attacks in “the future time period imminent to a certain degree,” the commission said in its statement. It added that the future danger must be more than a vague fear of an attack.But the commission acknowledged that two conditions were met. The 55-page statement on the decision said the Matsumoto sarin attack was carried out “as a group act for the purpose of promoting its political motive.” The commission added that a series of procedures initiated by the agency “was significant in the sense that it caused big changes in the group.” The commission gave low credibility to agency reports based on interviews by security agents with cultists.