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Juliet Hindell reports for BBC News
"The drastic changes are being see as a reaction to a new law"
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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 13:59 GMT
Aum cult blames leader for gas attack

temple The cult is pointing the finger at its former leader

A Japanese doomsday cult has said for the first time that its founder was probably involved in one of Japan's worst mass-murder attempts in 1995.

In a statement released on the internet, the Aum Shinrikyo cult said that its former leader Shoko Asahara was probably involved in the crimes he is now charged with. They include the gas attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 people and injured thousands.

Shoko Asahara Shoko Asahara is still on trial over the Tokyo gas attack

"Although we cannot say for sure since the trial is still going on, we have come to a consensus that [Shoko] Asahara was likely involved in the series of crimes he is charged with," the statement said.

"Asahara is a yoga and Buddhist meditation methods and we will continue to practise those methods inherited from him."

The 44-year old, half-blind Asahara is on trial for masterminding the subway attack as well as 16 other crimes, including murder, attempted murder, a separate nerve gas attack and production of weaponry.

He has denied any involvement in the crimes committed by his followers.

Name change

Aum also said it would change its name to "Aleph" - taken from the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet - and rid itself of part of its doctrine which has been interpreted as condoning murder if it benefits the cult.

The renamed group's main target of worship will be Buddhist deities and its followers will no longer take personal orders from Mr Asahara, although he will remain "a spiritual entity", the cult's newly appointed leader Tatsuko Muraoka said in the statement.

victims Twelve people were killed and thousands injured

Mr Muraoka said that the new group would pose no threat to society.

Fumihiro Joyu, the cult's charismatic former spokesman and second highest official after Asahara, said that the cult "deeply apologises to the victims" and that reforms were being taken to rid the cult of its sinful past.


On Monday, Aum reportedly agreed to hand over its facilities in six locations as well as more than 3.3 million yen it received from a small town in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, for vacating land there as compensation to the victims.

A senior government spokesman Mikoo Aoki said the government would continue to closely watch the cult's activities.

"There are sufficient grounds for us to believe that their announcement is simply aimed at evading regulations," he said.

The cult also set out "drastic reforms" in what may be a reaction to new laws passed in December giving the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on such groups.

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See also:
26 Dec 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cult revival
23 Oct 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cultist sentenced to death
01 Oct 98 |  World
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25 Dec 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese sect's nerve gas plant destroyed
26 May 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Life sentence for Japan's 'Dr Death'

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