TOKYO, July 10–A senior female AUM Shinrikyo cult member asked a former police officer to survey a site for shooting Japan’s top police official five days before the March 1995 attack, according to investigative sources.
The officer, Toshiyuki Kosugi, a onetime AUM member himself, is under arrest on suspicion of attempted murder. He told police the woman asked him not only to survey a site for shooting National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu but also to cooperate in investigating “forces that are trying to snare” the cult, the sources said.
Kosugi, 39, said he contacted the woman after receiving a phone call from another senior AUM member, Yoshihiro Inoue, 34, on March 25, 1995, asking him to call the woman, who Kosugi met in 1988 when he joined AUM.
The woman in question is believed to be a 43-year-old aide to AUM founder Shoko Asahara. She was convicted of taking part in the confining and killing of the chief clerk of the Meguro Public Notary Office in February 1995.
The NPA believes that AUM systemically worked to recruit Kosugi, then a policeman, for the shooting plot with the intention of using his police connections, the sources said.
They said the NPA will investigate whether Asahara was personally involved in giving the orders to recruit Kosugi.
The authorities have found that a man resembling Satoru Hashimoto, 37, who the police suspect carried out the shooting and is currently appealing a death sentence on a separate murder case, accompanied Kosugi when he visited an area outside NPA chief Kunimatsu’s home in Arakawa Ward in March 1995.
Kosugi has told the police he met with a group of men at a Tokyo subway station before going to the site and one of them resembled Hashimoto, the sources said.
Kosugi had said he visited the site three times – on March 25, 27, and 28 – but later said he had been to the site only once, on March 25.
The shooting occurred outside Kunimatsu’s home at around 8:30 a.m. on March 30, 1995.
Kunimatsu, who was then directing investigations into suspicions surrounding AUM, was shot three times in the abdomen and seriously injured.
The Tokyo police launched a series of raids into AUM facilities following the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500.
Asahara was sentenced to death on Feb. 27 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the subway attack. His counsel has appealed to a higher court.
Several other senior cult members have also been convicted or are standing trial in connection with the subway attack or other crimes.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.