• Kyodo

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The Nagoya High Court on Friday rejected an appeal by a local ward office trying to prevent a member of Aum Shinrikyo from applying for official residency.

A lower court had ruled the ward office must accept the residency application.

It is the first high court ruling on a case involving a residency application by a member of Aum. Some local administrations have refused to allow members of the cult, blamed for the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack and other heinous crimes, to register as residents.

According to the court, a 31-year-old female cultist submitted a residency application form to the Naka Ward office after she moved there from nearby Nishi Ward on Aug. 1.

On Aug. 20, Naka Ward chief Motohide Itoyanagi rejected the application, saying residents opposed having Aum members in their neighborhood.

The woman, whose name has not been released, took the case to court, arguing that municipal chiefs have no legal basis to reject residency applications.

Seeking 1 million yen in damages, the plaintiff argued the rejection violated her “right to habitation and freedom to change abode and the right to life as guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The district court on Dec. 12 ordered the ward to rescind its decision and ordered Nagoya Mayor Takehisa Matsubara to pay the woman 30,000 yen in damages.

In a similar suit, the Osaka District Court ruled in October that Suita, Osaka Prefecture, could not reject residency applications submitted by Aum members.

Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial on a number of criminal counts.

These include masterminding the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 that left 12 people dead and thousands injured, and another deadly nerve gas attack the previous summer in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Akitoshi Hirosue, the head of Aum’s legal affairs section, called on all municipalities that are refusing to accept cultists’ residency registrations to repeal their decisions in view of Friday’s ruling.

He added that the cult will continue to do its utmost to allay local residents’ fears about having Aum followers living in their midst.

Nagoya Mayor Matsubara said the city will decide what action to take after closely scrutinizing the ruling.

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