Staff writer After he is freed today from a Hiroshima prison, senior Aum Shinrikyo member Fumihiro Joyu will probably announce the voluntary dissolution of the cult, according to a freelance journalist who has extensively covered the sect. It would be a move to avoid a new law designed to curb the cult’s activities, Yoshifu Arita said in an interview with The Japan Times. “The last thing that Joyu would want is the law to be applied to the cult, which is equivalent to the death penalty (for the cult),” he said. “Once the organization ceases to exist, there will be no target to invoke the law on.” Famous for his adept speeches, Joyu, 37, the charismatic former Aum mouthpiece, was acting leader of the cult from May 1995, when guru Shoko Asahara was arrested, until his own arrest in October the same year. Many observers believe he will be the key figure if Aum is to emerge again. Arita, who recently published the book “A Man of Darkness — Fumihiro Joyu,” predicts Joyu may instruct the cult to break up, urging followers to live in small groups and keep up their religious training at home. Such an announcement will probably come before the end of January, the journalist said. This is before the Public Security Examination Commission, an extraministerial board of the Justice Ministry, orders that Aum’s activities be monitored, which is allowed under the new law that went into effect Monday. The legislation does not specifically name Aum but states its purpose is to crack down on any group whose members have carried out or attempted indiscriminate mass murder in the past 10 years and whose leaders still hold sway over its followers. The commission is to announce its decision on Aum as early as the beginning of February, because the legislation states that a decision must be made within 30 days whether to place the group in question under surveillance. The legislation will allow the Public Security Investigation Agency to regularly supervise or restrict Aum’s activities if the law is invoked against the cult. Arita said Joyu earlier proposed the dissolution of Aum when the cult faced the possible invocation of the 1952 Antisubversive Activities Law. When Arita met with Joyu at the cult’s Aoyama headquarters a few days before his arrest in 1995, Joyu said he would announce the “voluntary dissolution” within two weeks. However, the plan ended with his arrest. “I believe Joyu offered the idea just to avoid the invocation of the (1952) law and to keep a low profile until the public outrage against Aum (over the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack) eased,” Arita said. The same could be said of two announcements the cult made in the past three months, he noted. Aum announced in September that it will suspend external activities such as recruiting followers and holding seminars. Earlier this month, senior members admitted the cult was involved in the crimes its key figures stand accused of and apologized to the victims. They also promised to compensate victims. But Arita said it is wrong to believe Aum has changed unless it admits the guru’s involvement in the crimes and abandons its doctrine that justifies murder. The journalist believes Joyu has a much more sinister character than most people think. Although Joyu was only convicted for forging public documents, testimony by Aum figures implicates him in the cult’s mass murder plots, Arita said. In June 1993, local residents complained of a foul smell from an Aum facility in Tokyo’s Kameido district. Joyu explained at the time that the cult failed to decoct some Chinese medicine, causing the awful smell. But according to prosecutors, Asahara ordered Joyu and other members to produce anthrax to commit mass murder. Former cultist Yoshihiro Inoue testified that Joyu was in charge of that scheme. “The strong possibility that Joyu was involved in attempted mass murder has not been covered much by the media,” Arita said. Joyu will return to the cult as a “seitaishi,” the highest rank an Aum follower can reach, and will strongly affect the cult’s decision-making process, Arita said. “As it is now, it is believed that Aum is unlikely to commit heinous crimes in the immediate future,” Arita said. “But with the return of Joyu, the threat of Aum might begin to resurface.”
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