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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 14:27 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Japan targets Aum cult

The cult escaped being outlawed in 1997

Japan's cabinet has approved a bill restricting the activities of the doomsday cult accused of a 1995 nerve gas attack in Tokyo.

The bill was scheduled to be submitted to parliament on Tuesday.

Although the bill does not name the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth Sect), it effectively targets the doomsday cult, as it is to control "a group that carried out random mass murder in the past and its leaders at the time of the murder."

[ image: Aum leader Shoko Asahara]
Aum leader Shoko Asahara
Cult members shocked the world when they spread sarin gas in Tokyo's subway in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.

A number of Aum members, including guru Shoko Asahara, have been convicted in connection with the gas attack. One was sentenced to death in September.

The cult was blamed for more than a dozen other crimes, including the murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family in 1989.

Crackdown to stymie comeback

Under the bill, a group implicated in serious crimes can be placed under the surveillance of the Public Security Investigation Agency for up to three years and could be forced to report on its activities every three months.

[ image: Fresh raids were launched against Aum in Tokyo and Osaka in May]
Fresh raids were launched against Aum in Tokyo and Osaka in May
Police and public security officials would have the right to inspect such a group's facilities at any time.

If the group is found to have committed illegal activities, it can be banned from acquiring land or facilities for up to six months.

Another proposed bill will offer financial help to victims of crimes committed by the cult.

Public pressure and police crackdowns on the cult have intensified in response to fears it could be staging a comeback.

The cult was forced to close down several branch offices in September, and two senior members were arrested on suspicion of confining a woman against her will.

The cult promised to close its branches, and said it would stop recruiting and using its current name.

The cult was stripped of most of its assets in 1996 when it was liquidated by court order, but has since amassed large funds through real estate purchases.

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Internet Links

Japan Times: Aum chronology

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