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Aum’s successors remain ‘dangerous,’ intel agency says

JIJI

The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult and a splinter group might remain under surveillance for at least the next three years, the Public Security Intelligence Agency said Monday.

It filed a request with the Public Security Examination Commission to extend the surveillance period after the current mandate expires at the end of January.

Aum sarin-gassed thousands of commuters on Tokyo’s subway system in March 1995. The group has apologized for the events of that period, but remains a wealthy body with hundreds of followers. It now calls itself Aleph.

The offshoot is called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light) and is headed by former Aum leader Fumihiro Joyu.

The agency said the two groups remain dangerous. They retain antisocial traits and teach their followers that the sarin gas attack was justified.

Surveillance is one measure stipulated by a law that aims to prevent organizations responsible for indiscriminate mass murder from recidivism. The commission will decide whether to extend the surveillance period for a fifth time after consulting the two groups for their opinions.

The two groups have roughly 1,650 members in Japan, up about 150 from 2012, the agency says. They also have around 160 members in Russia, up around 20.

Their material possessions include 32 facilities in 15 Japanese prefectures and cash assets of around ¥650 million, an increase of around ¥80 million annually over the past three years.

Aleph requires its members to show absolute loyalty to guru Chizuo Matsumoto, the former Aum leader who is now in prison on death row. Matsumoto is better known as Aum guru Shoko Asahara.

The agency said Matsumoto’s wife and daughter remain senior members of Aleph because they play a direct role in the group’s operations.

It said Hikari no Wa has removed Buddhist paintings that symbolize Matsumoto from the altar but the group remains under his influence — possibly in a bid to play down its relationship and get exempted from further surveillance.

Although the group has introduced external auditing by individuals such as Yoshiyuki Kono, a survivor of an Aum sarin gas attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, the auditing system has not resulted in the group going straight, the agency said.