JAPANESE police are tightening the net around top members of
the religious sect Aum Shinri Kyo -- widely blamed for the deadly
nerve-gas attack in Tokyo in March -- amid worries that group
members will respond with violence if founder Shoko Asahara is
Last night, police were seeking arrest warrants charging Mr.
Asahara and other sect leaders with direct responsibility for the
nerve-gas attack on March 20 that killed 12 people and injured
thousands. Raids on the sect's facilities near Mt. Fuji, where the
ailing Asahara is believed to be in hiding, were expected after the
warrants are obtained.
At the same time, some critics are accusing the authorities of
manipulating the media and the media of being overly reliant on
police in their coverage.
The result, these critics note, is that Aum is almost
universally considered responsible for the gas attack and other
similar incidents since then, even though none of its members have
been formally accused of the attack during almost two months of
investigation, much less tried in a court of law.
Early yesterday, police arrested an Aum member named Yoshihiro
Inoue, the head of the group's self-styled "intelligence ministry."
Police say Mr. Inoue organized the subway attack, and have
leaked details of one of his notebooks, including notations
describing the schedules and ridership of the three subway lines
targeted in the gas attack.
Police have characterized the notebook as a breakthrough, since
it is the first material evidence they have obtained linking Aum
with the incident.
Under Japanese law, police must build a case on physical, rather
than circumstantial, proof to obtain convictions for murder.
With the investigation now in what appears to be its final
stage, Japanese television networks have been airing hours of
coverage of the case, in which lengthy talk shows are punctuated by
occasional reports of an actual event. As they have been doing for
weeks, Japanese newspapers are printing countless stories,
virtually all attributed to the police, about the activities of Aum
members and the progress of the investigation.
According to these reports:
*Two Aum members, Masami Tsuchiya and Seiichi Endo, have
admitted to police that they were involved in the production of
sarin, the gas used in the Tokyo incident. Another unnamed Aum
member, also in police custody, has said he carried a vinyl bag
containing sarin onto a subway car on March 20.
According to the latest police theory, Aum chemists produced the
sarin at its facility near Mt. Fuji, and about a dozen conspirators
were involved in releasing the substance at five points on three
subway lines packed with commuters. …