Why Japan's Terror Cult Still Has Appeal

For a cadre of loyalists, the group that released poison gas fills a spiritual void

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Still, it has followers like Ai Ozaki, 25. A shy, thoughtful woman from outside Tokyo, Ozaki (that's her cult name; she asked that her real name be kept confidential) joined Aum after the sarin attack. Though she knew of the group's connection to the subway terrorism, she was drawn to its promise of life after death in a reincarnated form. "I was afraid of dying," she says. "So I liked their creed." She left the group when Japan's new surveillance law required members to fill out forms that would be shared with the government. She couldn't tolerate the invasion of privacy. Ozaki's friends and family don't know about her Aum ties. She follows Asahara's trial, in which his lawyers have argued that the attack was plotted and executed by his underlings without his knowledge. She says she knows, in her heart, that he must have had something to do with the murders. "I can't really figure it out," she says, "but there is a part of me that still hopes he can save me. I still want to believe in him."

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