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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Japan's security agency raids Aum facilities

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese security officers have raided 25 offices of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attacks, after its founder lost a last appeal against his death sentence.

Television footage showed dozens of officers walking into buildings across Japan of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, including its de facto headquarters in Tokyo's Setagaya ward.

"Since his death sentence was finalized, we are afraid that his followers may possibly plan something illegal," said a Public Security Intelligence Agency spokesman.

"The agency officers are currently having hearings with Aum members."

About 250 officers raided the facilities, the spokesman added.

Shoko Asahara, the 51-year-old founder of the cult that attacked the Tokyo subway with nerve gas, lost his final appeal against his death sentence on Friday, meaning he can be executed at any time.

The bearded guru, who ordered Japan's worst ever terror attack which claimed 12 lives, was revered as a god by his sect, whose hardline followers are under constant surveillance.

The security agency raided the sect's facilities to determine what impact Friday's decision had on his estimated 1,650 followers, the spokesman said.

The agency is also keeping a close watch on movements of the followers in case some try to break Asahara out of prison or try to kill themselves when he is executed, he said.

Asahara's lawyers argued that the former acupuncturist was mentally unfit and only mumbled nonsense in meetings.

But Japan's Supreme Court refused a special motion by the defense seeking to resume his appeal trial, meaning Asahara could be hanged at any time.
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