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The BBC's Juliet Hindell
"The spokeswoman apologised for the cult from the bottom of her heart"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 12:45 GMT
Japan sect apologises for gas attack
Police raid on cult headquarters Police raid cult headquarters after the 1995 attack

The Aum doomsday cult in Japan has publicly apologised for the first time for the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

A number of cult members, including leader Shoko Asahara, have been convicted in connection with the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands.

"We now offer our sincere apology for the victims and their family members," cult spokeswoman Tatsuko Muraoka said in a surprise statement.

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We truly want to settle the past crimes
Tatsuko Muraoka
"As a result of watching the progress of court trials on a series of cases involving Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), we have come to the conclusion that we cannot deny that some of the sect followers at the time were involved in the incidents," she said.

Ms Muraoka added that Aum would make "as much compensation as possible" available, but did not provide details.

She also said the cult had set up a code of conduct, which demanded that its followers abide by the law.

Public pressure

The move comes two weeks after the Japanese parliament passed strict legislation against the sect.

But Ms Muraoka denied the apology was an attempt to protect the cult from being targeted under the new law.

The attack killed 12 and injured thousands The attack killed 12 and injured thousands
"I understand that people may take our actions in such a way, but we truly want to settle the past crimes," she said, in an interview with Japan's commercial NTV television.

Bowing to fierce public pressure, the doomsday cult said in September it would close its branches, stop recruiting new members and cease using its current name.

But it had stopped short of offering a public apology.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Juliet Hindell says, however, that public fears of another attack are unlikely to be allayed.

"I will never accept it [the apology]," a spokesman for victims told NTV, adding that the cult could not be trusted.

Raids

Aum escaped being outlawed in January 1997 when a legal panel ruled there was no reason to believe it could still pose a threat to society.

In addition to trials related to the subway attack, its members are also involved in 16 other cases - including murder, attempted murder and the production of weapons and drugs.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese police raided another religious cult suspected of swindling members out of millions of dollars.

Police searched 74 facilities of Honohana Sanpogyo, which claims to tell people's destinies by reading the soles of their feet.

The group is facing more than 1,000 lawsuits from followers who say they were forced to give money to the cult.

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See also:
02 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan targets Aum cult
30 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Sarin gas attacker to hang

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