Aum Shinrikyo has regained its organizational strength and expanded its activities since it was spared disbandment in January under the Antisubversive Activities Law, the Public Security Investigation Agency said August 26.
The agency, a department of the Justice Ministry, announced the findings of its surveillance operation August 26 and said the religious group has established 10 new “departments,” including those for sect’s accounting, publishing and computer shop business. The cult has also reopened five regional chapters and one training center since the Public Security Commission decided not to invoke the law against it in January, officials said. The cult now has 26 facilities nationwide, with about 500 live-in followers and some 5,000 others living on their own, they said.
The agency requested in July 1996 that the antisubversive law be applied to outlaw the cult. Although the commission rejected the request, the agency has continued to investigate the cult because it remains an officially designated surveillance target.
Akio Kanazawa, head of the agency’s No. 1 Investigation Department, said Aum is considered the most dangerous of all such designated groups.
According to the agency, 120 of the 427 have re-entered society after completing terms of punishment, paying fines or receiving suspended sentences. Thirty-four of the 120 have returned to the cult, the agency said. In addition, 104 of the 215 people who were released without being charged after the arrests have also returned to the cult, the agency added.
The agency suspects that the cult has threatened former followers to come back to the cult, telling them they would go to hell or have to cut their fingers should they refuse to return.