Suspects May Not Be Charged in Shooting of National Police Chief

TOKYO, July 25–Prosecutors may not indict four AUM Shinrikyo cult-linked suspects arrested over the 1995 shooting of the then National Police Agency chief due to a lack of credible evidence, investigation sources said Sunday.

As doubts linger over the credibility of testimonies by former police officer Toshiyuki Kosugi, among the four arrested, prosecutors believe it would be difficult to sustain a trial without being able to pinpoint who actually shot Takaji Kunimatsu, the sources said.

Prosecutors have until Wednesday to decide whether to charge the suspects.

The others, arrested along with Kosugi on July 7, are two former senior AUM members Tetsuya Uemura, 49, and Koichi Ishikawa, 35, and current member Mitsuo Sunaoshi, 36.

Kosugi was also a former member of AUM, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.

The police said Ishikawa tried to confuse their investigations, and that Kosugi, Sunaoshi and Uemura acted as accomplices in the shooting.

Kosugi told investigators in 1996 he shot the police chief and that the gun was dumped into the Kanda River. The police could not find the weapon and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office did not press charges against him due to a lack of corroborative evidence.

As the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department continued investigations, Kosugi, who collaborated with investigators, then made new claims that he had lent a coat to a man who looked like former AUM member Satoru Hashimoto, whom the police believe was the actual gunman in the shooting.

As a result, the police went ahead with the arrests of the four earlier this month after finding that the gunpowder on the coat matched that of the bullets in the shooting, the sources said.

Kosugi, however, has failed to make a definitive statement about the person who he said he had lent the coat, only saying the person “looked like” Hashimoto.

Both Hashimoto, and former senior AUM member Kiyohide Hayakawa, whom police believes commanded the shooting operation, have denied the allegations, the sources said.

Hashimoto is appealing a death sentence over the murder of an anti-AUM lawyer and his family.

The shooting of Kunimatsu took place on the morning of March 30, 1995, eight days after the police launched raids on AUM following the fatal sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway.

Kunimatsu was shot and severely injured in front of his home in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward, taking three bullets in the abdomen. The gunman fled the scene on a bicycle, the police said.

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