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News Archive for December, 1998

Chemical weapons experts confirm AUM site destruction, Wednesday, December 23, 1998, 3:55 p.m. PST
THE HAGUE, Dec. 23 (Kyodo) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced Wednesday the successful destruction of AUM Shinrikyo facilities allegedly used to produce sarin, the nerve gas the religious cult released in Tokyo subways in 1995. The OPCW, based in The Hague, said at a news conference that the AUM chemical weapons facilities were the first in the world to be demolished under the Chemical Weapons Convention which went into effect in April last year. AUM owned three sarin-production plants at Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture at the foot of Mt. Fuji, where the sect allegedly produced the highly toxic gas which was also released in a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.
Asahara's chief lawyer indicted in 'jusen' scandal, Friday, December 25, 1998, 1:23 a.m. PST
TOKYO, Dec. 25 (Kyodo) -- Prosecutors indicted the chief defense lawyer for AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara on Friday on charges that he advised a client, a borrower from "jusen" housing loan companies, to conceal assets to prevent their seizure. Yoshihiro Yasuda was indicted on charges of obstructing the compulsory seizure of building rental income, the prosecutors said. Prosecutors allege that Yasuda advised the real estate company to pretend it leased the building in question to an affiliate, which exists in name only, to prevent the seizure by a government-backed loan recovery body of rental income of about 200 million yen between March 1993 and September 1996.
No charges against teen in `vampire' slayings, Miami Herald, Saturday, December 19, 1998
TAVARES -- For the second time in two years, a grand jury on Friday refused to indict a teenage member of a `vampire' cult whose leader brutally beat to death her parents. The 20-member grand jury said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Heather Wendorf. State Attorney Brad King decided to reopen the case and asked the grand jury to reconsider evidence against Wendorf. Her parents, Richard Wendorf and Naoma Ruth Queen, were bludgeoned to death in November 1996 by Rod Ferrell, the leader of the teenage vampire cult.
A Japanese group draws suspicion, Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, December 17, 1998
TSU, Japan -- A farm is the centerpiece of the Yamagishi-ism Society, a fast-growing community whose followers share their harvests, renounce all personal possessions, and claim to strive for the common goals of friendship and harmony. The rapid growth of the society is generating little harmony outside its membership. It is instead renewing concerns about the popularity of cults, just a few years after a different cult's nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subways. The society has 35,000 members in Japan, 5,000 of whom live on 40 communes. The group also has communities in Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, Thailand, Australia and South Korea. Miyozo Yamagishi, a chicken farmer, established the society in 1952 with the aim of creating a rural utopia. The group strongly denies being a cult, and does not profess any specific religious beliefs. "They are dangerous," said sociologist Kimiaki Nishida, a professor at Shizuoka University and an expert on cults. "If pressured, they could go the same way that Aum went." A series of former followers have come forth recently saying that the utopian image the group tries to cultivate is a sham. They say members are tightly controlled and forced into a life of secrecy, subservience and often abuse. Followers must leave their family, and donate all their savings, real estate and other assets to the commune to earn full-fledged membership. Children age 5 or older are separated from their parents and live in dormitories, where they sleep two-to-a-bed. Half of the members living on communes are children. After nine years of education at public schools, most are assigned to tend fields or raise cattle on a commune. Boys and girls are strictly separated. No one is paid for their work, and everything in the commune is free. In March, a group of lawyers said it had found evidence that about 30 children living at a commune in Hiroshima were abused. The children were sent to work in the fields without breakfast before going to school, and constantly complained of hunger during class, Hiroshima Bar Association chairman Hiroshi Kurata said in a statement. Kurata said children also were put into solitary confinement, slapped in the face, or kicked in the legs for minor offenses. Letters to the children were inspected, and their contacts with relatives were restricted, the bar association said. Yamagishi denied all allegations.
High court upholds order for AUM to leave apartment Thursday, December 17, 199, 83:32 a.m. PST
OSAKA, Dec. 17 (Kyodo) -- The Osaka High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling ordering a group of members of the religious cult AUM Shinrikyo to leave a Kyoto apartment room they have rented, saying their presence poses a nuisance to other residents. "They have caused an unbearable sense of misgiving toward other residents," Presiding Judge Teisuke Sono said, supporting the plaintiffs' demands for the cultists to terminate their rent contract and vacate the room. The members began using the room around November 1995 and have installed an alter and a photograph of AUM founder Shoko Asahara there, according to the high court ruling.
Jailed teen caught in blood `ritual', Miami Herald, Saturday, December 12, 1998
Charity Keesee, 18, serving time for her involvement in a vampire cult murder is under administrative confinement in a North Florida prison after a guard discovered her and another woman licking blood from each other's forearms, prison officials said Friday. On Dec. 4, reports say, a corrections officer at Lowell found Keesee and a 17-year-old together in a prison dorm bathroom. "They were observed licking each other's forearms," said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joellyn Rackleff. Each had a small cut on her forearm, believed to have been made by a prison-issued safety razor, she said.

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