Researcher also held after police crackdown
TOKYO — Police rooted a chemist out of an underground bunker yesterday and placed him under arrest, apparently hoping to find a definitive link between a doomsday cult and the deadly gas attack last month on Tokyo’s subways.
Masami Tsuchiya led attempts by the Sublime Truth sect to experiment with chemicals, and its research into sarin, the nerve gas used in the subway attack.
His arrest at a Mount Fuji commune capped one of the most intense days of police crackdowns on the cult, involving more than 1,300 officers and raids on 88 offices, yoga centers, communes and other cult facilities.
Also taken into custody was Seiichi Endo, a cult leader and former virus and genetics researcher who is believed to be another potential key to determining whether the sect was involved in the March 20 subway terror, in which 12 were killed and 5,500 were sickened.
Tsuchiya and Endo were charged with harboring a fugitive. Further details were not available.
Sect leaders have repeatedly denied any connection with the subway attack or a series of subsequent incidents.
But daily searches of the Mount Fuji commune and other cult properties over the past month have uncovered tons of chemicals and equipment that could have been used to produce the gas.
Police were believed to still be looking for the cult’s founder, Shoko Asahara, who has been in hiding since the subway killings.
They got a taste of Asahara’s ire yesterday when his latest book went on sale. In it, Asahara warned of a new calamity unless police pull back.
“The authorities are unjustly arresting our stoic disciples and doing things they certainly shouldn’t,” Asahara wrote in the hastily prepared book. ”This is escalating and will certainly cause the gods to explode with anger.”
In the book, “The Sadness of a Dead Japan,” Asahara said again he is gravely ill. He attributed his condition to alleged biological weapon attacks on him and his followers by the US military.
Tsuchiya was described in an earlier book by Asahara as the sect’s chief chemist. He was quoted at length describing sarin and other weapons cult members believe will be used in World War III.