Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 - Japan

Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that conducted the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, continued efforts to rebuild itself in 1999. The group's recruitment, training, fundraising – especially a computer business that generated more than $50 million – and property acquisition, however, provoked numerous police raids and an extensive public backlash that included protests and citizen-led efforts to monitor and barricade Aum facilities.

In an effort to alleviate public pressure and criticism, Aum leaders in late September announced the group would suspend its public activities for an indeterminate period beginning 1 October. The cult openly pledged to close its branch offices, discontinue public gatherings, cease distribution of propaganda, shut down most of its Internet Web site, and halt property purchases beyond that required to provide adequate housing for existing members. The cult also said it would stop using the name "Aum Shinrikyo." On 1 December, Aum leaders admitted the cult conducted the sarin attack and other crimes – which they had denied previously – and apologized publicly for the acts. The cult made its first compensation payment to victims' families in late December.

Japanese courts sentenced one Aum member to death and another to life in prison for the subway attack, while trials for other members involved in the attack remain ongoing. The prosecution of cult founder Shoko Asahara continued at a sluggish pace, and a verdict remained years away. Japanese authorities remained concerned over the release in late December of popular former cult spokesman Fumihiro Joyu – who served a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for perjury – and his expected return to the cult as a senior leader. The Japanese parliament in December passed legislation strengthening government authority to crack down on groups resembling the Aum and allowing the government to confiscate funds from the group to compensate victims. The Public Security Investigation Agency stated that it would again seek to outlaw the Aum under the Anti-Subversive Activities Law. Separately, the Japanese Government continued to seek the extradition of members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) from Lebanon and Thailand.


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