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Monday, 20 March, 2000, 09:43 GMT
Cult apologises for death gas attack
Victims in the Tokyo subway
Many in the attack are still suffering after-effects
The cult behind the Tokyo underground nerve gas attack which killed 12 people have apologised on the fifth anniversary of the deaths.
We must further tighten controls on the use of this kind of unforgivable chemical

Japanese PM Keizo Obuchi
Aum Supreme Truth sent a representative to a memorial service for those who died when Sarin nerve gas spread through trains and platforms five years ago.

Cult leader Tatsuko Muraoka, 50, said in a statement: "We would like to renew our acknowledgement of the crime committed five years ago.

"We will do our best to make an apology and offer compensation as much as possible."
Shoko Asahara
Shoko Asahara: On trial with other members
At least 5,000 people were injured in the attack and many are still suffering from the after effects.

They were offered free medical check ups this weekend, but they say the government has done nothing to help them recover.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi promised a crackdown on the availability of Sarin to prevent a repeat of the tube tragedy.

He said after the memorial service at Kasumigaseki station in central Tokyo: "We must further tighten controls on the use of this kind of unforgivable chemical.

"I want to pray for the victims and offer my condolences."

Shoko Asahara, 44, the cult's former leader, and other members of the cult, are still on trial for masterminding the attack.

Anti-cult law

The group, which apologised to the victims and admitted its involvement for the first time in December last year, has been trying to distance itself from the past.

It has changed its name to Aleph, renounced Shoko Asahara as the guru and said it would close down its computer companies which earned it millions of dollars.

The changes are in part in response to a new law introduced to crack down on the cult's activities.

During new police searches of Aum buildings allowed by the law, investigators recently discovered that the cult had supplied software to the police and defence agencies and a number of prominent Japanese companies.

Condolence books

The scandal was one reason why the Japanese public are not convinced the cult has changed.

A recent newspaper survey found 8% of people still feared Aum.

Every time the cult tries to move into a neighbourhood the locals mount protests against them.

The anniversary of the attack was a public holiday in Japan so there were no crowds of commuters on the subway trains but hundreds turned out to sign books of condolence set up at stations around the capital.

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'The group has been trying to distance itself from t
"The group has been trying to distance itself from the past"
See also:

01 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
31 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
26 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
18 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
25 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
01 Oct 98 | In Depth
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