A personal computer shop run by two human rights activists and staffed by eight followers of Aum Shinrikyo opened for business Saturday in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, one week after the scheduled opening.
The outlet was initially scheduled to start business on June 17, but a request from the building’s landlord and real estate company to retract the firm’s contract delayed the opening.
The landlord had demanded the shop cancel the contract claiming they were not informed that Aum followers would be working there. Local residents have also joined talks between the shop and proprietors.
The shop, managed by Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, both members of the Liason Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct, which supports the cult followers, finally received the green light for its opening after promising not to cause any trouble, according to the landlord.
The shop occupies a room on the fifth floor of a building in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.
The shop, which will also handle mail-order PC sales, is not connected with any activities of Aum and does not provide financial support to the group, sources close to the shop said.
However, the eight employees, according to their own will, might donate their salaries to compensate victims of Aum-related crimes, sources said.
Lawyer Saburo Abe, who serves as administrator for the now bankrupt cult, initially approved the cult’s PC sales as a way to raise compensation money for victims of cult crimes.
However, he has since retracted the idea on strong opposition from victims who claimed such activity would lead to keeping the cult alive.
All four PC shops run by Aum-affiliated companies were closed in late January. It was believed that the shops generated 6 billion yen in sales in 1998.
Kenji Utsunomiya, lawyer for the victims of the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, said although the victims may feel uncomfortable about the outlet, they cannot tell Aum followers not to work because they have a right to make a living.
Utsunomiya pointed out that the shop which opened Saturday is different from the four defunct PC shops, as it is run by people not connected with the cult.
Aum founder Shoko Asahara and several other cultists have been on trial or convicted of committing a number of crimes including the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands.