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Public Security Intelligence Agency seeks surveillance extension for Aum-linked groups

JIJI

The Public Security Intelligence Agency on Monday requested that the surveillance period for groups that split off from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult be extended for another three years.

The agency filed the request with the Public Security Examination Commission, which is overseen by the Justice Ministry. If approved, the current surveillance period, set to expire in January 2018, would be extended until 2021, bringing the tally to six extensions.

Under the law regulating organizations that carried out indiscriminate mass murder, these surveillance periods allow on-site inspections to be carried out on the designated groups. The current period covers three groups: Aleph, which is Aum’s successor organization, Hikari no Wa (Circle of Light), a splinter group of Aleph, and another group that recently split from Aleph called Yamada-ra no Shudan.

These groups are considered to still be under the heavy influence of Aum guru Chizuo Matsumoto, 62, whose cult carried out the deadly sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995. The attack left 13 people dead and more than 6,000 injured. Matsumoto, who went by the name Shoko Asahara, is on death row.

The intelligence agency claimed that the three usually operate as separate groups but share the same objective of spreading and enforcing Aum’s doctrines. Although Hikari no Wa denies following Matsumoto, the agency said the group is only pretending not to be under his influence.

“The groups are dangerous,” Seimei Nakagawa, head of the agency, told a news conference, criticizing its upholding of a platform that encourages murder.

In September, the Tokyo District Court issued a ruling to lift surveillance on Hikari no Wa but maintaining it on Aleph.

The court judged that Aleph is deepening its ties with Matsumoto’s doctrines, while Hikari no Wa has rejected them. It also ruled that the two groups cannot be viewed as one organization based on a single decision-making structure.

The state appealed the ruling. If the decision is finalized by a higher court, the surveillance on Hikari no Wa will be lifted.

According to the agency, the three groups together own 34 facilities in 15 prefectures. Several related sites are also in Russia.

Aleph has some 1,500 members in Japan, including the 30 who left the group to start Yamada-ra no Shudan in 2015, and around 400 members in Russia. Hikari no Wa has about 150 members in Japan and some 60 in Russia.