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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Supreme Truth About The Aum Shinrikyo - Part 4

Welcome to the fourth and final blog entry on Japan's Aum Shinrikyo religious and terrorist cult.

Four, in Japanese, is "shi", pronounced 'she' ... which verbally sounds exactly like the Japanese word for 'death'.

So... in Parts 1, 2 and 3, we looked at the origins of the Aum Shinrikyo cult religion, its terrorist attack on a suburb, and its terrorist attacks (plural) on the Tokyo subway lines—the latter event probably being the one that truly brought international focus onto the cult who believed that in order to save the world, they needed to destroy it first.

Now... the Tokyo sarin gas attacks in the subway system was done on March 20, 1995. What you may NOT have known was that it may have been a retaliatory gesture on part of the cult.

One month earlier, the Aum Shinrikyo kidnapped Kariya Kiyoshi (surname first), the 69-year-old brother of an escaped cult member. Now... you might think that all the cult wanted was their returned member, but no... these guys took their victim to a compound at Kamikuishiki near Mt. Fuji, killed him, and then destroyed the body in a microwave-powered incinerator and then took the few remains and tossed them into Lake Kawaguchi.

Now... Kariya was smart. The Aum Shinrikyo had previously called him on the telephone threatening him if they did not tell him where his sister, the former member, was hiding out, that something bad would happen to him. As such, he left a note that said: "If I disappear, I was abducted by Aum Shinrikyo."

He even said 'disappear'... wow.

The police were informed after Kariya Kiyoshi disappeared, and were making plans to raid all of the Aum Shinrikyo facilities across Japan simultaneously.

It is believed that the Aum found out about the upcoming raids, and to perhaps deflect attention, they ran the subway terrorist attack on March 20, 1995 (Part 3) as a preemptive move.

But... it didn't work.

From March 23 - September 4, 1995, Japanese police made over 500 raids on suspected Aum Shinrikyo facilities and compounds: 398 arrests and over 66,000 confiscated items.
Of those captured, they faced a variety of charges, including: murder, conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, kidnapping, obstruction of justice, harboring, and theft, to petty traffic and licensing offenses.

While one would think that having the cops onto you would cause one to lie low, the Aum Shinrikyo was still brazen and aggressive - basically thinking itself above such petty attention from the police.

And yet... on March 30, 1995 police chief of the National Police Agency Kunimatsu Takaji (surname first) was shot four times near his home - wounded seriously, he survived.

On April 23, 1995, in a JFK/Jack Ruby-like event, a Yakuza member from the Yamaguchi-guchi, Jo Hiroyuki (surname first) stabbed Aum Shinrikyo's Ministry of Science leader Hideo Murai (surname first), in front of a crowd including 100 reporters and cameras outside the cult's Tokyo headquarters. Like Ruby, no motive was given.

May 6, 1995, another chemical weapon—sodium cyanide—was attempted at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Two plastic bags... one with two-liters of powdered sodium cyanide; one with 1.5 liters of diluted sulfuric acid. When found, they were both on fire and promptly extinguished... luckily, because when the chemicals mix, you get hydrogen cyanide gas - which in the amount present could have killed 10-20,000 people.

Up until this time, lots of cult members had been arrested, but the police were biding their time, trying to ensure that any case against the leaders was going to stick.

On May 16, 1995, cult leader Asahara Shoko (surname first) was arrested, found hiding behind a wall in the Kamikushiki facility. Not necessarily in retaliation, because these things take time to create and deliver, but a letter bomb mailed to the Governor of Metropolitan Tokyo later that night exploded in the hands of his secretary, blowing off the fingers of his left hand. Five members of the Aum Shinrikyo, including its Intelligence Chief Inoue, were indicted for producing and posting the explosive five days earlier on May 11.

Apparently another gas attack was stymied on July 4, 1995 - another hydrogen cyanide attempt with four delivery systems at various washrooms at Kayaba-cho, Tokyo and Ginza subway stations and the Japanese Railway suburban Shinjuku station. None of the gas bombs worked.

So... Asahara was initially charged with 27 counts of murder on 13 separate indictments, as well as 16 other offenses. His trial was unimaginatively dubbed "the trial of the century" by the press, ignoring some 95 other years of stellar trial work in other countries.
In my hometown of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, protestors demand that the Aum Shinrikyo cult be removed from their city. Holy sh!t. It was that close...

Eventually, perhaps to be removed from the death penalty, other members of the Aum Shinrikyo testified against Asahara, and he was eventually found guilty of 13 counts of murder... including the Sakamoto family that was involved in the initial news broadcast regarding the bad stuff going on in the cult (see HERE near the bottom).

Asahara was tried and found guilty and sentenced to death in on February 27, 2004... which makes you wonder why things took so long... Despite appeals, he still sits on death row. There is no scheduled hanging date, as Japan tends to do these things in secret... Well, actually, his death sentence has been put on hold as of June 2012... which makes me think that he's providing information on the cult and cult members...

The Weed Of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit
All said and done, 12 members of the Aum Shinrikyo—including cult leader Asahara Shoko (I dated a Shoko... isn't that a girl's name?!) were given death sentences.

As for the five idjits who tried to use the sarin gas in the Tokyo subway attacks (Read about that HERE), here's what's going on with them:
  1. Hayashi Ikuo (surname first) apparently provided help to the police regarding the sarin gas attacks and cult activities, so he did NOT get the death sentence... and only received life imprisonment.
  2. Hirose Kenichi (surname first) was sentenced to death... he appealed, but the Supreme Court of Japan on November 6, 2009 upheld the sentence.
  3. Toyoda Toru (surname first) was sentenced to death, appealed and lost, upheld by the Supreme Court of Japan on November 6, 2009.
  4. Yokoyama Masato (surname first) was sentenced to death in 1999.
  5. Hayashi Yasuo (surname first)... he actually evaded capture for 21 months, but was eventually found on Ishigaki Island, about 1,000 miles from Tokyo. He was sentenced to death, but has since appealed...
Japan's longest running manhunt finally ended on June 15, 2012 with the arrest of Takahashi Katsuya (surname first), who was the former bodyguard of cult leader Asahara Shoko.

I found a website that offers data on the arrests, so let me direct you THERE to Religion News Blog
A wanted poster of Aum Shinrikyo cult members... some already captured.
Numerous trials involving Aum Shinrikyo members are scheduled to be held during 2014 - hence my initial decision top find about a little bit more about the cult.

In conclusion... the Aum Shinrikyo does not exist anymore - at least not in name. On October 10, 1995 the group was stripped of its religious legal entity status and declared bankruptcy in 1996. But, thanks to funding from its computer business and donations - all carefully watched by authorities - the group continues... and, actually changed its name in February 2000 to that of Aleph.

Apparently religious texts related to controversial Vajrayana Buddhist doctrines and Bible were removed. They even apologized to the victims of the sarin gas attack and established a special compensations fund. Provocative publications and activities that alarmed society during Aum Shinrikyo times are no longer in place.

Hmmm... it almost makes me wonder why they don't take their revised doctrines and start a new religion - rather than change the name as they have done.

With any luck, this will be the last time I have to write about the Aum Shinrikyo.

Andrew Joseph

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