The Tokyo District Court on Friday rejected a claim from Aum Shinrikyo that a 1999 law that allows state surveillance of the group is unconstitutional.
Aum, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000, has been under surveillance by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Investigation Agency since February 2000, based on a set of laws enacted in December 1999 that allow authorities to monitor “groups that have committed indiscriminate mass murder within the past 10 years.”
Founder Shoko Asahara and several other cult members have been convicted of a number of serious crimes, including a March 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system, which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
When the three-year period of Aum surveillance expired in January 2003, it was extended for another three years as the Public Security Examination Commission determined it could not rule out the possibility that the group might commit another mass murder.
Friday’s ruling was the second defeat for Aum in its attempt to have the law overturned. In June 2001, the Tokyo court rejected another cult lawsuit, which argued that the security agency surveillance violated the Constitution. The recent case was filed last year.
In rejecting the suit, presiding Judge Yosuke Ichimura said that indiscriminate mass murder such as the act committed by Aum caused “grave and irrecoverable damage” to people’s lives and that the law was vital to prevent a further threat to civilian lives.
When the district court turned down the cult’s earlier suit in 2001, it stated that for the group to be placed under surveillance, authorities must prove that it poses specific danger to society.
In the latest suit, Aum argued that there are no longer any concrete facts to prove that it poses a threat.
But Judge Ichimura concluded that it would be difficult for authorities to prevent a recurrence of the cult’s criminal activities if they were only allowed to monitor it when danger became evident.
The judge also brushed aside the cult’s argument that it is no longer under the influence of Asahara’s teachings, which authorities say authorized the murders. Spiritually, Asahara is still the object of absolute devotion, he said.
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