The Justice Ministry decides to keep a controversial law to watch over the doomsday cult.
Nearly a decade after it carried out a deadly sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo, the Aum Shinrikyo cult is deemed "still dangerous'' enough to warrant extraordinary surveillance, sources say.
As a result, the Justice Ministry plans to keep in place a 1999 law aimed at controlling organizations that committed indiscriminate mass murder.
The organization control law was established in response to shocking crimes committed by Aum, such as the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system that left 12 people dead and thousands sickened.
Because of concerns it could infringe upon the freedom of religion and other rights, the law is subject to review every five years, including its possible abrogation.
On Wednesday, Justice Ministry officials told a joint meeting of legal and security panels of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that they do not plan to abolish or revise the law when it comes up for its first review in December, according to the sources.
The panels offered no objections.
Aum Shinrikyo, which now goes by the name of Aleph, has been under surveillance by the Public Security Intelligence Agency since early 2000.
Many former senior members, including founder Chizuo Matsumoto, have received death sentences for Aum's reign of terror.
In actual fact Aum is virtually the only group targeted by the law, which enables agency officials to conduct on-the-spot investigations of its facilities and examine its account books.
Specifically, the law condones surveillance of an organization that has committed indiscriminate mass murder in the past decade and is regarded as at risk of doing so again. Only Aum fits this description, officials say.
In preparation for next month's scheduled review, ministry officials consulted legal and other experts and examined Aum's general activities to date.
Ministry officials said it was clear that some cult members still revere their former guru and adhere to his teachings. They noted that former Aum disciples involved in lesser crimes had rejoined the cult.
As a result, the ministry determined the cult possibly still poses a danger to society.
They said the ministry decided the cult still requires surveillance since it does not cooperate when its offices and other locations are searched, is inclined to try to conceal facts, and some followers embrace absolute faith in Matsumoto.
The cult, calling the surveillance unconstitutional, filed a lawsuit to have it lifted-to no avail.
In spite of that, court decisions are divided over conditions that warrant such surveillance. The key question revolves around whether authorities must show there is a "specific danger'' that a targeted group is gearing up to commit mass murder when it is put under surveillance.
On Monday, a liaison group of 35 municipalities where Aum followers reside or have facilities presented a request to Justice Minister Chieko Nono that the organization control law remain in place.
"The cult is continuing with its dubious activities,'' the statement said. "Residents have had friction with the cult and are forced to live with anxiety.''