TOKYO — A 30-year-old man told a court yesterday that gangsters hired him to kill the top scientist in the doomsday cult accused of spreading nerve gas in Tokyo subways.
Hiroyuki Jo originally told police he stabbed the man out of anger at the Sublime Truth cult, which is accused in the March 20 gas attack that killed 12 people and injured 5,500.
But at a hearing in Tokyo District Court yesterday, Jo said he acted under orders from a gangster boss, now under arrest in the case. No motive was mentioned.
Hideo Murai, 36, was stabbed April 23 in front of television cameras outside the cult’s Tokyo headquarters.
Shoko Asahara, the cult leader, and his top lieutenants have been charged with murder in the subway gassing.
Prosecutors told the court that Jo was following orders from a boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest underworld syndicate. When he was given the mission, Jo was told that someone was counting on him, prosecutors said, but they did not say who that was.
Hours before he stabbed Murai, Jo accepted about $800 from gangster boss Kenji Kamimine, prosecutors said. Jo was ordered to stay at the murder site, identify himself as a member of an ultrarightist group, and tell police he had no intention to kill, prosecutors said.
Jo faces further court appearances before the verdict is given. That could take years.
Asahara had predicted an apocalypse, and news reports said ranking cult members were experimenting with laser, chemical, biological and conventional weapons. Nearly 40 senior cult members have been arrested, and police are searching for another five suspects.