Japan’s Doomsday Cult Gets Eviction Notice
TOKYO (AP) _ Members of the religious cult blamed for nerve gas attacks on Tokyo subways were ordered Friday to vacate a building allegedly used as a gas factory.
The eviction notice is the first step by authorities to confiscate all of Aum Shinri Kyo’s extensive real estate. The property would be sold to pay the cult’s debts, including damages sought by victims of crimes linked to the cult.
About 80 cult members sat in a large meditation hall inside the building at their Mount Fuji commune while bankruptcy administrator Saburo Abe explained why they were being evicted.
``You no longer have a legal basis to be here, and so we hope you will leave peacefully,″ he told the members, who reacted calmly. Meditation music played in the background and television floodlights glared.
If the group doesn’t leave by Sept. 25, it could be forcibly evicted, Abe said. The Tokyo District Court has already dissolved Aum’s religious legal status and declared it bankrupt.
The building serves as a dormitory and training facility. It is part of a sprawling prefab complex in Kamikuishiki, about 90 miles west of Tokyo.
Police have found tons of materials on the property that could be used to make the deadly sarin nerve gas, drugs, other poisons and weapons. Officials say cult members manufactured sarin in a chemical plant in the building.
Cult members including top guru Shoko Asahara are on trial on numerous charges that include the March 20, 1995, sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subways, which killed 12 people and sickened thousands.
In a separate legal action, government hearings aimed at banning the cult concluded Friday with testimony from Tatsuko Muraoka, who represents the cult in the absence of its arrested founder, Asahara.
Muraoka tried to convince a Justice Ministry committee that the cult is harmless now that Asahara has stepped down. In a previous hearing, she announced that Asahara’s 2- and 3-year-old sons had taken over as nominal leaders.
But the committee is expected to recommend the cult be banned, meaning its members could not meet in large groups, publish literature or raise money.