Aum members win ruling against city over residency

Kyodo

The Nagoya Municipal Government received a court order Monday to pay 30,000 yen each to seven members of Aum Shinrikyo because the Naka Ward Office rejected their applications for residential status.

Judge Yukio Kato of the Nagoya District Court also revoked the ward’s decision to reject the applications, as the plaintiffs had demanded.

Many senior members of the cult, which now calls itself Aleph, have been found guilty of conducting the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and made thousands of others ill.

Kato said in the ruling: “The head of a municipality or ward is obliged to accept an application for changing address if such an application reflects the actual circumstances of residence.

“There is no evidence the (Aum) followers were involved in incidents as individuals or are under the strong influence of the group’s founder (Shoko Asahara).”

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is accused of masterminding the Tokyo subway attacks and remains on trial.

The judge also said there is no law allowing municipalities to reject residential status applications due to concerns that applicants may jeopardize public welfare.

According to the ruling, the seven cult members moved to an Aum facility in Naka Ward from other locations in the city. They filed applications Feb. 8 with the ward office for changing their addresses, but their requests were turned down.

Aum members said after the ruling that the group wants to use the damages to help compensate the cult’s victims.

The members said they hope the defendants, including the Nagoya mayor, will follow the ruling and accept the change-of-address applications.

Motohide Itoyanagi, head of the Naka Ward Office, said the ruling was regrettable and that he will decide whether to appeal after consulting with concerned parties.

Other Aum members previously lodged a similar suit against the ward office, and the Nagoya High Court handed down a similar ruling in April, revoking the office’s decision to reject residential status applications. Nagoya municipal authorities then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Tax evasion charge

A member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult was arrested Monday in Tokyo on suspicion of violating the Local Tax Law.

Katsuhiko Harada, 30, a resident of Adachi Ward, is accused of failing to declare the salaries of workers at his computer store.

To support the charge, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau searched 11 locations for evidence, including Aum facilities in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture.

According to police, Harada is suspected of failing to submit to municipalities documents showing salary payments for six workers between March 2000 and February 2001.

The store is in Taito Ward.

Aum Shinrikyo carried out the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in which 12 people died and thousands were sickened.