Friday, 23 January 2015

Aum Shinrikyo: a real nasty terrorist organization                      

I want to thank those persons who placed much of this information into the Internet.

This terrorist organization is a Japanese cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. It gained international notoriety in 1995 when it carried out the Tokyo subway sarin (very deadly gas) attack and was found to have been responsible for another smaller sarin attack the previous year. As a consequence, it is now (and has been since 1995) listed as a terrorist organization a number of countries.

Shoko Asahara was born into a large, poor family of tatami mat makers in Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture. Afflicted at birth with infantile glaucoma, he went blind at a young age in his left eye and is only partially sighted in his right. As a child, Asahara was enrolled in a school for the blind. Asahara graduated in 1977 and turned to the study of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, which are traditional careers for the blind in Japan.  He was married in 1978. In 1981, Asahara was convicted of practicing pharmacy without a license and selling unregulated drugs and was fined 200,000 yen. ($701.49 US) Asahara’s religious quest reportedly started at this time. After he got married, he began working to support his large and growing family. He dedicated his free time to the study of various religious concepts, starting with Chinese astrology and Taoism. Later, Asahara  practiced esoteric yoga and Christianity.

In 1987, Shoko Asahara officially changed his name and applied for government registration of the group Aum Shinrikyo. The authorities were initially reluctant to accord it the status of a religious organization but eventually granted legal recognition after he applied successfully for an appeal in 1989. After this, he established a monastic order and many of his lay followers decided to join his monastic order.

The doctrine of Aum Shinrikyo is based on the Bible and other texts. In 1992 Asahara published a foundational book, and declared himself “Christ, Japan's only fully enlightened master and identified himself as the “Lamb of God”. His purported mission was to take upon himself the sins of the world, and he claimed he could transfer to his followers his spiritual blessings and ultimately take away their sins and bad works. He also saw dark conspiracies everywhere promulgated by Jews, Freemasons, the Dutch, and the British Royal Family, along with rival Japanese religions. He outlined a doomsday prophecy, which included a Third World War, and described a final conflict culminating in a nuclear Armageddon—as suggested in the Book of Revelation.  It must be apparent to my readers that this man is a kook.

Aum published manga magazines (comic books featuring apocalyptic stories about global conspiracies, doomsday weapons, and space travel) as a recruiting tool. The cult promised to cure physical and mental ailments through secret techniques involving positive thinking and new translations of ancient sutras or holy texts. It also owned a number of restaurants and for-profit hospitals. From these sources and donations, Aum made millions of dollars. Both Asahara and his top disciples reportedly continued their humble lifestyles, the only exception being the armored Mercedes-Benz gifted by a wealthy follower concerned over his guru’s personal safety.  In 1995, the group claimed 40,000 members worldwide and over 9,000 members in Japan. That could be an exaggeration but nevertheless, that organization did have a great many members.

Aum Shinrikyo has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by several countries that includes Japan, Canada, and the United States along with a number of geopolitical organizations.

The cult began attracting controversy in the late 1980s with accusations of deception of recruits, and of holding cult members against their will placing some of them in solitary confinement for up to a month and forcing members to donate money. There was a persistent rumor that there was the murder of a cult member who tried to leave the cult in February 1989.   

While Aum was considered a rather controversial phenomenon in Japan, it was not yet associated with serious crimes. However in October 1989, the group's negotiations with Tsutsumi Sakamoto, an anti-cult lawyer threatening a lawsuit against them which could potentially bankrupt the group, failed. The following month Sakamoto, his wife and his child went missing from their home in Yokohama. The police were unable to resolve the case at the time, although some of his colleagues publicly voiced their suspicions of the group. It was not until 1995 that they were known to have been murdered and their bodies dumped by cult members. The cult is known to have considered assassinations of several individuals critical of the cult, such as the head people of Buddhist sects Soka Gakkai and the Institute for Research in Human Happiness  and the attempted assassination of the controversial cartoonist, Yoshinori Kobayashi in 1993

Aum was also connected with such activities as extortion. The group commonly took patients into its hospitals and then forced them to pay exorbitant medical bills.

In 1992 Aum’s Construction Minister Kiyohide Hayakawa published a treatise called Principles of a Citizen's Utopia which has been described as a "declaration of war" against Japan's constitution and civil institutions. At the same time, Hayakawa started to make frequent visits to Russia to acquire military hardware, including AK74s, a MIL Mi-17 military helicopter, and reportedly Aum made an attempt to acquire components for a nuclear bomb.

At the end of 1993, the cult started secretly manufacturing the nerve agent sarin and later VX gas. They also attempted to manufacture 1000 automatic rifles but only managed to make one.[18] Aum tested their sarin on sheep at Banjawarn Station, a remote pastoral property in Western Australia, killing 29 sheep. Both sarin and VX were then used in several assassinations (and attempts) over 1994–95.

In December 1994 and January 1995, Masami Tsuchiya of Aum synthesized 100 to 200 grams of VX which was used to attack three persons. Two persons were injured and one 28-year-old man died, who is believed to be the only fully documented victim of VX ever in the world. Aum had a young chemist who made all the various poisons.

On the night of 27 June 1994, the cult carried out a chemical weapons attack against civilians when they released sarin in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto, Nagano. This Matsumoto incident killed eight and harmed 200 more. However, police investigations focused only on an innocent local resident, Yoshiyuki Kouno. They failed to discover that it was the Aum cult that was responsible.

Sarin is a nerve agent and it can be lethal even at very low concentrations, with death due to suffocation from lung muscle paralysis which follows within 1 to 10 minutes after direct inhalation.  People who absorb a non-lethal dose, but do not receive immediate medical treatment, may suffer permanent neurological damage.

The attack on June 27, 1994 in Matsumoto, Japan was conducted by Aum by using a converted refrigerator truck. Members of the cult released a cloud of sarin which floated near the homes of judges who were overseeing a lawsuit concerning a real-estate dispute which was predicted to go against the cult. From this one event, 500 people were injured and seven people died.

In February 1995, several cult members kidnapped from a Tokyo street, Kiyoshi Kariya, a 69-year old brother of a member who had escaped from Aum, and took him to one of their compounds at Kamikuishiki near MountFuji, where he was killed and his body destroyed in a microwave-powered incinerator before being thrown  in Lake Kawaguchi

On the morning of 20 March 1995, Aum members released sarin in a coordinated attack on five trains in the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 commuters, seriously injuring 54 and affecting 980 more. Some estimates claim as many as 6,000 people were injured by the sarin. It is difficult to obtain exact numbers since many victims were reluctant to come forward

Five members of Aum boarded the trains and deposited the sarin that was wrapped in newspapers. They carried umbrellas with them and when it was time to commit their deeds, they punched holes in the newspapers so that the sarin would leak out. Then at the next stop, they would exit the trains.

The sarin was so powerful, it floated in all the cars of the trains and even in the tunnels and at the train stations.

Prosecutors allege that the motive of Asahara was that he was tipped off about planned police raids on cult facilities by an insider, and subsequently he ordered an attack in central Tokyo to divert attention away from the group. The plan evidently backfired. One of the Aum men on the train confessed to the police about Aum’s role in the attack. The police conducted comprehensive simultaneous raids on cult compounds across the country.

The police discovered stockpiles of chemicals that could be used for producing enough sarin to kill four million people. Police also found laboratories to manufacture drugs such as LSD, methamphetamine, and a crude form of truth serum, a safe containing millions of US dollars in cash and gold, and prison cells, many still containing prisoners. 

On 23 April, Murai Hideo, the head of Aum’s Ministry of Science, was stabbed to death outside the cult's Tokyo headquarters amidst a crowd of about 100 reporters and in front of cameras. The man responsible is a Korean member of Yamaguchi-gumi. He was arrested and eventually convicted of the murder. His motive remains unknown.                                    

On the evening of 5 May, a burning paper bag was discovered in a toilet in Shinjuku station in Tokyo, the busiest station in the world. Upon examination it was revealed that it was a hydrogen cyanide device which, had it not been extinguished in time, would have released enough gas into the ventilation system to potentially kill 20,000 commuters. Several undetonated cyanide devices were found at other locations in the Tokyo subway.     

Shoko Asahara was finally found hiding within a wall of a cult building known as The 6th Satian in the Kamikuishiki complex on May 16 and was arrested. On the same day, the cult mailed a parcel bomb to the office of Yukio Aoshima, the governor of Tokyo, blowing off the fingers of his secretary's hand.

Shortly after his arrest, Asahara abandoned his post as the organization's leader, and since then he has maintained silence, refusing to communicate even with lawyers and family members. Asahara was charged with 23 counts of murder as well as 16 other offenses. The trial, dubbed “the trial of the century” by the press. The court ruled that Asahara was guilty of masterminding the attack and sentenced him to death. The conviction was appealed unsuccessfully. A number of senior members accused of participation in the sarin attacks also received death sentences as was those who carried them out.                                

The irony of the crimes committed by Aum was that although the police suspected that Aum was responsible, they didn’t initially investigate that cult because they didn’t want to investigate a religious organization. Hasd they acted sooner, lives would have been saved.

Attempts to ban the group altogether under the 1952 Subversive Activities Prevention Law were rejected by the Public Security Examination Commission in January 1997.

In July 2000, Russian police arrested Dmitri Sigachev, an ex-KGB and former Aum Shinrikyo member, along with four other former Russian Aum members, for stockpiling weapons in preparation for attacking Japanese cities in a bid to free Asahara. 

The group underwent a number of transformations in the aftermath of Asahara’s arrest and trial. For a brief time, Asahara’s two preteen sons officially replaced him as guru. It re-grouped under the new name of Aleph in February 2000. It also announced a change in its doctrine: religious texts related to controversial Vajrayana Buddhist doctrines and the Bible were removed. The group apologized to the victims of the sarin gas attack and established a special compensations fund. Provocative publications and activities that alarmed society during Aum times are no longer in place.

Fumihiro Joyu, one of the few senior leaders of the group under Asahara who did not face serious charges, became the official head of the organization in 1999. Kōki Ishii, a legislator who formed an anti-Aum committee in the Diet in 1999, was murdered in 2002. Does this mean that the so-called dead body of the Aum cult still has signs of life in it?

For over 15 years, only three fugitives were being actively sought. At 11:50 pm 31 December 2011, Makoto Hirata surrendered himself to the police and was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the 1995 abduction of Kiyoshi Kariya, a non-member who had died during an Aum kidnapping and interrogation. On June 3, 2012 police captured Naoko Kikuchi, the second fugitive, acting on a tip from local residents. Acting on information from the capture of Kikuchi, including recent photographs showing a modified appearance, the last remaining fugitive, Katsuya Takahashi, was captured on June 25, 2012 after a surveillance video of him was released. He is said to have been the driver in the Tokyo gas attack and was caught in Tokyo near a comic book coffee shop. He had been on the run for 17 years.

According to a June 2005 report by the National Police Agency, Aleph had approximately 1650 members, of whom 650  lived communally in compounds. The group operated 26 facilities in 17 prefectures, (districts) and in about 120 residential facilities.

An article in the Mainichi Shimbun a Japanese newspaper published on September 11, 2002 showed that the Japanese public still distrusts Aleph. I don’t know if there is justification in that distrust or not.  Local communities have also tried to drive the cult away by trying to prevent cultists from finding jobs, or to keep cult children out of universities and schools. Their actions are morally wrong. Aum followers broadcast extremely loud music over loudspeakers installed on minivans, moving up and down streets adding to the displeasure of the residents. That is outright stupid on the part of Aleph.

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