TOKYO — Two days before cult leader Shoko Asahara goes on trial for the lethal gas attack on Tokyo’s subways, his top aide admitted in court yesterday to making the type of nerve gas used in the attack.
While Nakagawa said he did not know of plans to use the sarin gas on subway cars, his statements lend support to other members who say the cult was responsible for the March 20 attack, which killed 12 people and sickened 5,500 others.
Asahara goes on trial tomorrow to face murder charges in the subway attack and the strangling, both of which he is accused of ordering. He is expected to plead not guilty.
The case has captured the attention of the Japanese public. A record 4,158 people lined up near the court seeking one of the 56 public seats for Nakagawa’s trial. The seats were given out by lottery.
Prosecutors told the court that Asahara and other cult leaders plotted the gas attack to cause chaos that would head off police action against the group.
Nakagawa admitted involvement in making the sarin, but denied charges of conspiracy in the attack.
The 32-year-old doctor, who is charged with murder and attempted murder, told the court that he helped make and pack sarin at the cult’s compound on the slopes of Mount Fuji the day before the attack.
Nakagawa said he participated in the killing of fellow cult member Kotaro Ochida, but was only summoned when Ochida was at the point of death. He acknowledged helping strangle the man, but said he did so to “release him
Ochida was killed after he tried to rescue the mother of another cult member from a cult hospital.
Since the attack, nearly 170 cult members have been charged with various crimes, ranging from traffic violations to the subway gassing.
The cult guru had predicted an apocalypse that only cult members would survive.
Police raids on cult facilities turned up evidence that the cult was working to amass chemical, biological and conventional weapons to realize that prediction.