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Aum Shinrikyo has paid 25 million yen as the first installment of its own compensation package for victims of crimes attributed to the religious cult, senior Aum officials said Tuesday. At a press conference held at the cult’s Yokohama branch, top members, including Fumihiro Joyu, said Aum remitted the money into the account of a fund headed by Saburo Abe, the court-appointed administrator in charge of liquidating the cult’s assets, so victims of its alleged crimes can be compensated. The transfer was confirmed by Abe’s office the same day. According to Joyu and others at the conference, the money includes profits from businesses run by resident followers as well as donations. The cult also said it is planning to raise tens of millions of yen from the sale of Aum properties, including automobiles. Regarding Monday’s decision by the Public Security Examination Commission to allow the cult to be placed under surveillance, Aum said it would immediately file suit to seek nullification of the decision. “(The law) is unconstitutional and the new group (Aleph) does not meet the conditions the law deems necessary for its application,” they said. Aum announced that it had changed its name to Aleph in mid-December. However, Joyu stressed that the cult will abide by the government’s surveillance rules, in accordance with the law. The same day, a citizen’s group that helps former members of the cult submitted a petition to the central government asking authorities to ensure that former cult followers will not face discrimination when they rejoin society. The Nihon Datsu-Cult Kenkyu-kai (Japan Study Group for Quitting Cults), headed by Shingo Takahashi, an associate professor at Toho University, also asked that the government take into consideration the feelings of those who are still with the cult when authorities inspect Aum’s facilities. The petition asks authorities to make sure that any revelation of past membership of Aum will not be reflected in the treatment of former members. It also calls for an early solution to the row over the enrollment of children of Aum members in local public schools in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture. The municipal board of education is refusing to accept Aum followers’ children to attend local schools. The group was established in 1995 by a group of people led by lawyer Taro Takimoto, whom Aum once attempted to kill. He is now promoting activities to help Aum members quit the cult.

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