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Aum successor wins damages, apology from Tokyo government

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court ordered the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Tuesday to pay damages and apologize to the Aleph religious group, previously known as Aum Shinrikyo, for releasing an investigative report about the 1995 attempted murder of the national police chief that suggested the cult was behind the attack.

The court ordered the metropolitan government to pay ¥1 million in damages and to offer a written apology to Aleph, which had sought ¥50 million.

The court turned down Aleph’s demand that Katsuhiko Ikeda, head of the Metropolitan Police Department in 2010 when the report was issued, also be ordered to pay damages and apologize.

The report was about the shooting of National Police Agency Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu in March 1995. No one was ever indicted for the attack. Kunimatsu survived and later served as ambassador to Switzerland from 1999 to 2002.

The Tokyo police released the investigative report on March 30, 2010, after the statute of limitation on the attack ran out. It said the attack was an act of terrorism by Aum members. The police put an outline of the report on its website for about one month.

In Tuesday’s decision, presiding Judge Hiroshi Ishii said the report was illegal and criticized it for running counter to the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

The Tokyo police argued during the trial that the report did not defame Aleph because it is a different group from Aum. The court ruled, however, that Aleph continues to be generally regarded as Aum and that the report was damaging to the group.

The trial did not address whether the content of the report was factual or whether there was sufficient cause to suspect Aum’s involvement.

Aleph spokesman Hiroshi Araki said the group wants the Tokyo police to reflect on the verdict. Police officials said they will decide whether to appeal after reviewing the verdict.

Numerous court cases have established that Aum Shinrikyo carried out the sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and in a residential neighborhood in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.

Cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and a number of his followers have been convicted for those crimes.

Thirteen Aum members are on death row, including Asahara.

The cult renamed itself Aleph in 2000. In 2007, a senior member and some followers left to launch a splinter group called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light).