Former Aum Shinrikyo executive Fumihiro Joyu, who later founded Hikari no Wa (The Circle of Rainbow Light) which is one of the splinter groups, offered his apologies once again Friday to people affected by the doomsday cult but said he is no longer part of the original group.
“As I also bear a heavy responsibility, I would like to apologize to the victims,” he told a news conference, although adding, “I have left Aleph more than 10 years ago, and I don’t have any special feelings (for Asahara).”
Joyu said he first learned about the executions of Aum founder Shoko Asahara and six other condemned cult members during a telephone call Friday morning from an acquaintance.
Aum evolved from a yoga school established by Asahara in 1984 and had about 1,400 live-in followers and over 10,000 lay followers at one point. It renamed itself Aleph in 2000 and two splinter groups have since been formed. One of them is Joyu’s Hikari no Wa.
The Public Security Intelligence Agency continued to monitor the groups, believing they were still under the influence of Asahara. The followers of the three groups total about 1,650 in Japan and about 460 in Russia, while the groups hold more than ¥1 billion ($9 million) in assets, according to the agency.
Aum built up a following in Russia amid the turmoil that followed the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, and at one point it was estimated to have 30,000-50,000 adherents in the country, according to Russia’s local media.
On Friday, Russian media reported Asahara’s execution as breaking news, showing a high interest in the murderous Japanese sect that gained a following in Russia in 1990s.
Aum “predicted the end of the world and the final decisive battle of good and evil, and planned to eradicate enemies in various ways such as (by using) poison gas,” Tass news agency said, adding, “That is prohibited all over the world, including in Russia.”
Aum is banned in Russia, having been recognized as a terrorist organization by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2016.