Tokyo police arrest last Aum Shinrikyo fugitive

Police in Japan on June 15 arrested the last fugitive from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult on suspicion of murder in connection with the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

The Asahi Shimbun reports

The suspect, Katsuya Takahashi, 54, was caught in the Kamata area of Tokyo’s Ota Ward after spending 17 years on the run.

His identity was confirmed through fingerprints and his own admission, police said.

Brief documentary on Aum Shinrikyo and the Sarin gas attacks. Part 1/2

The Associated Press says


Takahashi, who had been cult guru Shoko Asahara’s bodyguard, was on Japan’s most wanted list for his suspected role in the sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000. He allegedly helped one of the members who released sarin on one of the subway lines run away from the scene.

He is also suspected in a 1995 cult-related kidnapping-murder, as well as a mail bomb that injured a Tokyo city employee.

According to The New York Times

Investigators arrested the suspect, Katsuya Takahashi, 54, near an Internet cafe in central Tokyo after receiving a tip that a man resembling the fugitive had been spotted there, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Mr. Takahashi was arrested on suspicion of murder.

His arrest came less than two weeks after Naoko Kikuchi, who is suspected of being an accomplice, was taken into custody in a Tokyo suburb. The police had said that information gathered during her arrest had put them on the trail of Mr. Takahashi.

Both suspects had managed to elude the authorities for 17 years, though their photographs appeared on wanted posters across Japan. The manhunt gained traction after another member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult wanted in connection with the attack, Makoto Hirata, turned himself in to the police five months ago.

Brief documentary on Aum Shinrikyo and the Sarin gas attacks. Part 2/2

The guardian writes

Takahashi’s arrest will close a significant chapter in the Aum saga but it will be some time before Japan fully recovers from the national trauma created by the gas attacks.

Thirteen Aum followers, including its founder, Shoko Asahara, are awaiting execution, while the trials of Kikuchi, Takahashi and Makoto Hirai, who turned himself in on New Year’s Eve, will serve as reminders of the violent cult that sought confrontation with the government as a preface to the end of civilisation.

AP notes

Aum Shinrikyo had amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government. Nearly 200 of its members have been convicted in the 1995 attack and dozens of other crimes. Thirteen, including Asahara, are on death row. […]

The cult, split into two groups — each renamed Aleph and the Circle of Rainbow Light — once had 10,000 members in Japan and claimed another 30,000 in Russia. It still has hundreds of members.

The cult is under police surveillance and its current leaders have publicly disavowed Asahara.

Japan’s National Police Agency says that a total of 6,583 people fell victim to the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and seven other crimes committed by Aum Shinrikyo.

Several splinter groups remain active and are showing signs of loyalty to guru Shoko Asahara.

Compiled by Religion News Blog

How cult apologists, including J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, defended Aum Shrinrikyo
Final police tally confirms 6,583 fell victim to 8 Aum-related crimes
How AUM Shinrikyo justified violence
Life inside AUM Shinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
Ex-prosecutor: ‘Aum made preparations to topple the government’
Research resources on AUM shinrikyo

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This post was last updated: Nov. 17, 2014