Aum Shinrikyo chief Tatsuko Muraoka testified during the first hearing of a lawsuit filed against the Public Security Examination Commission that ongoing surveillance of the cult under the anti-Aum law is unnecessary as it no longer poses a threat to society.

Muraoka said before the Tokyo District Court that Aum, which has changed its named to Aleph, is a completely different organization from the one that committed the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

“I realize that what is behind the surveillance is public anxiety over our activities, but it has already been proven by past inspections that we are harmless,” she said.

The cult was placed under surveillance by the commission on Feb. 1, following the enactment of a law in December that allows authorities to monitor groups responsible for mass murder.

In deciding to monitor Aum, the commission deemed that the cult remains a threat to society and could again commit mass murder.

During Thursday’s hearing, Muraoka said the cult no longer matches the criteria specified in the law, specifically a stipulation that the group’s leader at the time the crimes were committed retains influence over members.

Under the law, Aum must provide information about its members and activities every three months. Cult facilities across the country have been raided seven times since the surveillance was begun.

During Thursday’s hearing, Yuji Maeda, a lawyer representing the cult, said the law runs counter to the freedom of religion and equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Muraoka said the law has triggered disregard for members’ human rights by the media and local-level authorities, as is seen in the rejection of their applications for residency with local governments.

The cult filed the lawsuit on Feb. 8 with the Tokyo District Court, seeking a court order to stop the surveillance.