The Public Security Examination Commission on Monday announced that it will allow authorities to put Aum Shinrikyo under surveillance for three years, the maximum period the Aum-directed law allows. The commission’s decision will take effect today, and the Public Security Investigation Agency, with the cooperation of the National Police Agency, will begin monitoring the cult as early as Wednesday. The commission recognized the agency’s claim that Aum committed the sarin gas attacks in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994, and on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 with such political reasons as creating “a nation under the sovereignty” of the cult’s founder Shoko Asahara, who remains a great influence on the followers. “Considering the evidence, we came to the conclusion that cult followers still constitute a threat and could commit another indiscriminate mass murder in the future, and its activities should be monitored for a certain amount of time,” said Kozo Fujita, chairman of the seven-member commission at a news conference at the Justice Ministry. The commission also said the alleged abduction of Asahara’s eldest son recently by his daughters and other followers was additional evidence that the group has dangerous tendencies, as it came soon after the cult stated it would obey the law and refrain from illegal activities. “We ask (Aum) to actively cooperate with the surveillance and make its actual condition transparent, because this will help reduce and sweep away the anxiety society has (toward it,)” Fujita said. Fujita called on the cult to keep its promise to compensate the victims of the heinous crimes committed by its members. “Society as a whole should also cooperate to protect the human rights of the followers and their children and accept them into society,” he said. Justice Minister Hideo Usui said he appreciated the commission’s decision, and that the agency would begin monitoring cult activities. “I am confident that the surveillance (of Aum) will relieve the anxiety of local communities (where cult members reside),” he said. As soon as the monitoring begins, Aum must provide information about its members as well as the nature of its activities every three months for the three-year period. Agency officials will be allowed to enter Aum facilities to carry out further inspections. The commission will also ask Aum to provide the names and managers of its Web sites, as the cult is believed to be providing information to followers through the Internet. Although Aum Shinrikyo expressed disappointment over the decision, it said it hopes authorities will respect followers’ human rights and that agency inspections will prove Aum is not dangerous. Meanwhile, Saburo Abe, a court-appointed administrator in charge of liquidating the cult’s assets, welcomed the decision, saying that it will make it easier for him to grasp the amount of Aum’s assets. “With the report from Aum and information from agency officials, I am willing to take appropriate steps further to help redress the victims,” Abe said in a statement. On Dec. 27 last year, the Public Security Investigation Agency requested the commission examine whether the cult met the conditions of the new law, designed to tighten control on Aum, on the day it took effect. The commission, an extraministerial board of the Justice Ministry, started the examination on Jan. 5 and was required to make a decision within 30 days. The law, enacted in the beginning of December, was drafted after local governments called on the central government asking for a way to deal with increasing friction between local residents and Aum members in various parts of Japan. The new law does not specifically name Aum but says the purpose of the legislation is to impose control on a group whose members have carried out or attempted indiscriminate mass murder in the past 10 years. The criteria also stipulate that the group’s leader still exerts a strong influence over its members and has the same members as when the crimes were committed. A targeted group must also have a platform that approves of murder, and have the potential to perform acts that may lead to another indiscriminate mass murder. In the request presented to the commission, the agency said that the cult met all five conditions and claimed that Aum needs to be placed under supervision because its activities are difficult to grasp. At the hearing held Jan. 20 by the commission as part of the examination procedure, Aum representatives said the cult, which changed its name to Aleph on Jan. 18, was no longer led by cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. They added that the cult had “destroyed” its doctrine that justified the act of murder, and that there is no longer any dangerous element that might lead its members to commit heinous crimes. However, the agency argued that Asahara still held strong sway over followers and that the recent changes the cult announced were done only to escape the application of the new law.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.