Ex-cult leader's twins denied admission

11th February 2000 at 00:00

A JAPANESE local authority has refused school places to the twin daughters of Chizuo Matsumoto, a former leader of the feared Aum Supreme Truth cult.

Some of the cult's leaders have been found guilty of murder in connection with the Tokyo subway gas attack in 1995, in which 12 people died and thousands were injured.

The Tokigawa board of education in Saitama Prefecture near the capital denied entry to six-year-old twins, despite a petition on their behalf being delivered to their local authority.

The authority failed to mail admission notices on January 20 to their parents when 80 other parents in the village with school-age children received such notices. The twins, who should by law enter school this spring, are living close to other cult members in the village of Tokigawa.

A lawyer for the parents told the education board that its decision ran counter to the constitution and the School Education Law, both of which guarantee all children a right to education.

The lawyer also declared that the parents had now left the Aum cult - which recently changed its name to Aleph - and had no intention of returning. While accepting this, however, the board said it would not revrse its decision.

The education ministry (Monbusho) said that it is unprecedented for a board of education to fail to send school admission notices to resident children whose parents want them to be enrolled in school.

The ministry also confirmed that it is the duty of the local boards of education to accept any child of school age.

But a spokesman said Monbusho appreciates the concerns of the local communities about the Aum cult members.

Last year other children of Aum members were admitted to local schools around the country, but angry locals barred their entry after the first day.

Alternative arrangements were made for the children's education.

It would appear the same fate awaits the Matsumoto twins according to education law expert Professor Michio Nitta from Tokyo University.

"My impression is that the ministry of education does not have the power to directly give an order to a local board of education.

"Of course, the ministry has de facto power to influence a course taken by those boards. But if local governments are determined to take such action and politicians are generally sympathetic to them, the ministry may not have the guts to intervene."

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