Fears over top Japan cult suspect

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 1996, 12:00am

POLICE are searching for a senior member of the Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinri Kyo, for fear he may try to disrupt the Asia-Europe meeting next month.

An Aum suspect, Keijiro Ota, was arrested on Monday at the behest of the Japanese authorities.

Ota is thought to have helped 14 other suspected members of the sect escape to Thailand, including Hayashi, or Ikuo Asai, who heads the most-wanted list.

Members of the sect are accused of releasing Sarin nerve gas that killed 12 people and injured thousands in the Tokyo underground system last March.

Thai police and intelligence services have drawn up a list of 1,200 suspected international terrorists who might be a threat to the European and Asian leaders due to gather in Bangkok for the historic meeting.

A search of the house Ota rented in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand revealed nothing more suspicious than a pair of handcuffs. However a Japanese embassy official said: 'We strongly believe he is connected to the Aum Shinri Kyo.' Although Thailand has no extradition treaty with Japan, Ota will almost certainly be expelled. He claims to be a tourist.

Some 9,500 police will form a security screen for the Asia-Europe meeting on March 1 and 2.