Another Trial For Aum Shinrikyo: Former Driver Pleads Not Guilty
This article for the Japan Times by Tomohiro Osaki, “Aum Accused Pleads Not Guilty to Most Charges on First Day of Trial” (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/16/national/crime-legal/aum-accused-pleads-not-guilty-to-most-charges-on-first-day-of-trial/#.VNls2MlhuSo) discusses what occurred during the first day of trial for former Aum Shinrikyo member Katsuya Takahashi. It goes into some detail about the crimes committed by the cult and specifically the role Katsuya Takahashi allegedly played in these crimes. Takahashi is being accused of crimes including murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping and is said to have acted as one of the main drivers for cult members perpetrating the sarin gas attacks on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995. Takahashi’s defence against the most severe charges are his claims that he was unaware that it was sarin gas being released and also that his intent was never to arm anyone. Katsuya Takahashi was apprehended in June 2012 after 17 years on the run, making this trial another crucial step towards bringing the cult to justice.
As we have previously discussed in class, New Religious Movements are not always worthy of the fear and ridicule they are often subjected to. Many are quite harmless and differ greatly from the ‘cults’ of public imagination. Aum Shinrikyo however, is a startling example of how dangerous these movements can be given enough power and a leader with a misanthropic agenda. I found this article a very interesting read in that it reflects the extreme amounts of influence that many cults have over their members and how ordinary people can be convinced to commit acts they otherwise would not. The Aum Shinrikyo cult is a particularly fascinating example of cult mentality and behaviour because while they did commit many crimes against people outside of the cult, they did not endorse mass suicide of cult members and many of the senior members ended up in prison after the sarin gas attacks. Very few dangerous cults survive major acts of violence with most of their key members still alive and well enough to serve time in prison, especially those movements which follow the teachings of a single godlike leader as Aum did. As can be seen with the way Katsuya Takahashi’s defence has taken shape, members of violent cults often disassociate themselves from the negative aspects of their movement or make claims along the lines of ‘we meant no harm’ or ‘I was unaware’. Whether or not Takahashi genuinely did not know the potential consequences of his actions will likely not become public knowledge but it does illustrate the insidious nature of cult ‘brainwashing’ if members cannot comprehend the seriousness of terrorist acts. Many former members have moved on with their lives and quit the cult altogether but the cult still is active in Japan today. I recently read that the remaining members of the cult are attempting to distance themselves from the terrorist acts committed by its members in the 1990’s and gain respect as a legitimate religious movement but this seems unlikely. It is difficult to claim that one’s movement is not a terrorist group when the terrorist acts perpetrated by said group are still fresh wounds on a nation’s psyche.
 Especially given the continued need for surveillance by government security agencies in light of recent behaviours that raise some concern. See: