2 ex-senior members of Aum tell all

Two former senior members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, both defendants appealing rulings on their participation in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, have sent The Yomiuri Shimbun letters from a detention center in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, to criticize the former cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto, better known as Shoko Asahara.

A total of 11 people have been charged in the case and all are being held at the detention center.

Kenichi Hirose, 40, the cult’s former so-called science and technology vice minister, has been sentenced to death by the High Court. He wrote, “Facing the grave fact that 12 people were killed and many were seriously injured, it is impossible to feel any objection toward receiving the death sentence.”

Shigero Sugimoto, 45, the cult’s former so-called home affairs vice minister, who was one of the leading members of the cult and Matsumoto’s chauffeur, disparaged his one-time leader, writing that Matsumoto could not communicate with his attorneys. “We, his former disciples, also have been detained for a long time, but we’re not in Asahara’s condition. It means his spirituality is inferior to ours.”

Hirose, who helped release the sarin gas on the Marunouchi subway line, graduated at the top of his class from Waseda University’s applied physics department before entering graduate school, and later joined the cult.

“Matsumoto was said to have the power to eliminate people’s evil deeds. I could only take his instruction to release the gas as salvation. That it was murder according to common sense did not occur to me,” he said.

Sugimoto–who drove Yasuo Hayashi, 47, to release the gas on the Hibiya subway line–has been sentenced to death and now waiting for an appeal. He wrote a 22-page letter to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

In the letter, Sugimoto avoided expressing any feelings on the incident or toward the victims, writing, “I can’t write such things easily.”

He wrote about the group, saying, “It shouldn’t continue to exist” and the current executives, who were involved in arming the group, “do not speak the truth and are fooling believers who know nothing.”

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