Asahara daughter seeks new guardian

Journalist who covered cult agrees to be replacement for 17-year-old

The fourth daughter of condemned Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara has filed a request with the Saitama Family Court to have journalist Shoko Egawa, who exposed the cult’s crimes, appointed as her legal guardian.

The 17-year-old daughter took the move Monday after she dismissed her current legal guardian, Takeshi Matsui, a defense lawyer for her 51-year-old father, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

In June, Asahara’s defense counsel filed a special appeal with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Tokyo High Court’s rejection of his appeal against the death sentence he was handed for his involvement in Aum’s crimes, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system.

“I had some hesitation about becoming a legal guardian, but I want to offer my support, if only a little, for the daughter, who wants to do her best in society and to be helpful to others,” Egawa said at a news conference later in the day.

Explaining the daughter’s decision, a lawyer representing her said, “She wants to be independent of the cult and her family, but cannot realize her wish under the existing guardian.”

Egawa and others said Matsui was appointed by a different family court to be the daughter’s guardian in November 2000.

After a series of Aum-related incidents, the daughter had lived with an older sister, younger brother and others, but repeatedly ran away from home. She began living with an acquaintance in the Kanto region around June.

She wants to go to medical school and has been studying for a high school equivalency certificate, they said.

In July, the daughter e-mailed Egawa, saying: “I want to be free of the bonds of my family and the cult, but it’s been difficult. I also want to be economically independent.” She then filed a formal request to change her legal guardian.

Asahara was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including another sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.