Japanese police have admitted they turned away one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives when he tried to surrender on New Year’s Eve after nearly 17 years on the run.
A police officer at the main entrance of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police thought it was a bad joke when Makoto Hirata, a former member of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, responsible for the 1995 nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway, showed up.
According to major media, he approached the officer around 11:35 pm Saturday and said: “I am Makoto Hirata. I am turning myself in.”
But the officer dismissed him as a fake and urged Hirata to go to a local police station some 700 metres (yards) away, said the Asahi Shimbun, the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun newspapers.
Hirata, who is wanted over a 1995 kidnapping, then told to the officer: “I am Hirata on the special wanted list.”
The officer did not consult with his colleagues and again told Hirata to head to the Marunouchi police station, where he arrived 15 minutes later and was arrested, local media said. [...]
Hirata also claims to have called a police hotline recently about his case, but was not taken seriously, national broadcaster NHK said.
Motives Vex Police
Meanwhile Kyodo News says
The Aum fugitive’s arrest now has experts wondering why Hirata decided to turn himself in after more than 16 years on the run. Some of them think he could be trying to prevent the execution of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
“He may be trying to protect Asahara,” said a former Metropolitan Police Department official. He said that ever since the finalization in December of the death penalty for former Aum executive Seiichi Endo brought the Aum trials to an end, public attention has shifted to when Asahara and Aum’s 12 other executive members will be executed.
Once Hirata has been indicted, another Aum trial will begin and the executions may be delayed, the former official said.
But Hirata’s motives are still unclear. He reportedly told his lawyer that the guru deserves the death sentence and also renounced his belief in Aum Shinrikyo.
Journalist Shoko Egawa warned that it is one thing to lose religion, but another to lose affection. “We should examine the case with caution,” she said.