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Aum mouthpiece Joyu freed from prison, returns to cult

Aum Shinrikyo’s charismatic ex-spokesman, Fumihiro Joyu, 37, was released Wednesday from Hiroshima Prison after finishing a three-year sentence for forgery and perjury. Upon his release, four years and two months after his arrest in October 1995, he announced his intention to rejoin the cult and flew to Tokyo, proceeding from there to an Aum Shinrikyo branch in Yokohama. After his arrival at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Joyu first headed to the Tokyo Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku Ward, but was not allowed to check in. A room there had been reserved by Joyu’s lawyer, sources said. After being turned away by the hotel, he proceeded to the cult’s Yokohama branch. Joyu left the prison, which was guarded by nearly 150 specially dispatched police officers, at 6 a.m. accompanied by his lawyers and several Aum members who were there to pick him up. About 300 members of the media and spectators waited for Joyu outside the prison, while about 30 cars and motorcycles as well as helicopters followed his van to Hiroshima airport. Before Joyu left for Tokyo, he distributed a statement through Aum followers saying, “I am going to return to the cult. I have nothing to say at this point, because I have just been released and am not sure about anything at the moment.” Joyu added in the statement that he will hold a press conference after taking some rest. At Haneda, Joyu showed up before the press at around 9:10 a.m. wearing a gray suit. Escorted by fellow cultists, Joyu maintained his silence as he walked past reporters, ignoring a barrage of questions. Investigative authorities said they believe Joyu will stay in the Tokyo area and lead the cult in place of Asahara.