Former Aum fugitive says cult leader should hang; cult victim says he should not

Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, who turned himself in to police late Saturday after being on the run for more than 16 years in connection with a cult slaying, believes guru Shoko Asahara should hang for his crimes, a lawyer who met Hirata in custody said Monday.

Kyodo News reports

Hirata, 46, has offered no clues as to how he spent his life on the lam and was in possession of several thousand yen when he surrendered.

He also told attorney Taro Takimoto that the 15-year statute of limitations for the 1995 attempted assassination of then National Police Agency head Takaji Kunimatsu had run out and thus he could not be held accountable for that attack, even if he had been considered a suspect.

Hirata was wanted for allegedly conspiring with other cultists in the February 1995 abduction and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya and the lethal injection of a chemical that caused the captive’s death that March 1. The statute for those offenses had been put on hold during the trials of Hirata’s alleged coconspirators, so he still faces prosecution for those crimes. He has only admitted being a driver during the abduction.

After their meeting, Takimoto told reporters that Hirata, who had been on the wanted list since May 1995, no longer believes in Aum and thinks Asahara, 56, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto and whose death sentence has been finalized, “deserves” the gallows. [...]

Takimoto, who in 1989 started helping members defect from Aum, missed being killed by cultists who placed sarin on the windshield of his car on May 9, 1994, in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. The following month Aum carried out a deadly sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Takimoto said Hirata told him he wanted to surrender within 2011 and had felt troubled by what transpired in the wake of the March 11 disasters in the Tohoku region.

Cult victim calls for forgiveness

Meanwhile, in a remarkable display of forgiveness, one of the victims of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult’s sarin gas attacks has called on the Japanese government to abandon the looming execution of the group’s leaders.

Rick Wallace writes in The Australian

Yoshiyuki Kono, who lost his wife in the group’s first gas attack and was treated by Japanese authorities as a suspect for almost a year afterwards, said he had forgiven the cult and its members and had visited several of them on death row.

Kono-san, who spoke to The Australian in Tokyo soon after Japan’s Supreme Court dismissed the final appeal lodged from among the cult’s jailed leaders, has suffered as much as anyone involved in the attacks.

He was at home with his wife, Sumiko, and three children on a summer night in 1994 when the family’s two dogs began frothing at the mouth and going into muscular spasms.

In what is thought to have been a trial run for the infamous attack on the Tokyo subway the following year, the Aum Shinrikyo cult had released the deadly odourless nerve gas into the street alongside the Kono family’s home in the mountain town of Matsumoto.

“While I went out to look at the dogs, my wife must have inhaled the gas and by the time the emergency services arrived she was already in cardio-pulmonary arrest,” he said.

With Sumiko near death in hospital, the chief of the investigation developed a bizarre suspicion that Kono-san was involved and it took him almost a year to clear his name. [...]

Somehow, in the aftermath of the incident, Kono-san made a sudden and concrete decision that he would hold no enmity towards the perpetrators and offered them complete forgiveness.

Several leaders of the cult – most of whom were jailed after the 1995 subway attack, in which 13 people died – contacted him to apologise and he has visited four of them in prison.

Yoshiyuki Kono: We have no right to banish ex-Aum followers

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