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The lawyer for the cult accused of carrying out the March 20 poison gas attack in Tokyo's subway system filed legal action Monday against authorities for rounding up 53 of the group's children.

Presented at the Kofu District Court in central Japan, the petition said that the police action of taking Aum Supreme Truth children into custody was illegal because the youngsters were living with their parents.Denouncing the police move on Saturday as an "illegal abduction," Aum Supreme Truth lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama promised that a lawsuit would be filed against the head of the government's juvenile welfare institution "depending on what the institution does about the children. "

Police spokesmen denied the lawyer's allegations, saying the authorities were completely within their rights to take the children, who are between the ages of 3 and 14, into protective custody.

Aoyama also said that the children of sect members had not been victims of either unsanitary conditions or malnourishment, as was widely reported. "The children had eaten nutritious food, including hamburgers and yogurt," he said.

Television reports Monday said the Aum children had been living in unsanitary conditions. The reports also said Aum facilities had too few showers.

By Sunday, 10 Aum children treated for pneumonia and malnutrition had been released and the other 43 seemed to be enjoying themselves in their new surroundings, said Shiro Yamazaki, who heads the juvenile institution.

At a Sunday news conference attended by five of the children, the children said they had not taken baths regularly nor had they changed clothes often while staying at the Aum facilities.

Some television commentators have suggested that the children actually wanted to be rescued. While being rounded up, they pointed out, few of the children resisted the police. And according to Yamazaki, none of the children expressed any interest in returning to the Aum facilities.

When the children were taken into custody on Saturday, most were wearing head gear with protruding electrodes, devices reportedly used by Aum followers to keep them on the same mental wavelength with founder Shoko Asahara.