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Kunimatsu case stumps prosecutors

Daily Yomiuri, Japan
July 27, 2004 • Tuesday July 27, 2004

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office likely will not prosecute three men currently under custody on suspicion of attempted murder in the 1995 shooting of then National Police Agency Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu, according to sources.

Although police arrested the men to defend the credibility of the police force, the case would again be deadlocked if prosecutors decide not to press charges against the suspects Wednesday, their last day of custody, the sources said.

The police arrested the three former Aum Supreme Truth cult members–Toshiyuki Kosugi, 39, who is also a former senior officer of the Metropolitan Police Department; Tetsuya Uemura, 49, formerly Tetsuya Kibe; and Mitsuo Sunaoshi, 36–on suspicion of attempting to murder Kunimatsu in March 1995.

Tokyo prosecutors plan to continue investigating the case, together with the MPD, on Tuesday and Wednesday, but in the meantime they will discuss with the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office and the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office whether they should put criminal charges on hold–the most likely possibility–or drop the case entirely due to insufficient grounds. Either decision would see the suspects released.

The police also have arrested Koichi Ishikawa, 35, a former senior member of the cult, in another alleged violation of the Explosives Control Law. Charges are not expected to be pressed against him, either, the sources said.

Kosugi, Uemura and Sunaoshi were arrested on July 7 on suspicion of conspiring with several others to murder Kunimatsu in a bid to interrupt and possibly halt the police investigation into the cult.

The police said an “unidentified suspect” fired four shots, three of which hit and seriously wounded Kunimatsu.

However, investigative authorities have not been able to identify the suspect, the chief obstacle to prosecuting anyone, the sources said.

Because they have not been able to find out which one of the three was the actual shooter, the police have been unable to figure out how the others conspired in the shooting or what roles each played, the sources said.

Kosugi told police that on the day of the shooting he had been in the area where Kunimatsu’s condominium is located with a man resembling another former senior member of the cult, Satoru Hashimoto, 37, and that he had lent his coat to the man.

The police detected a small amount of gunpowder, the same type as that from the bullets used in the shooting, on the coat.

Hashimoto has denied any involvement in the incident, and prosecutors cannot allege that Hashimoto was responsible for the actual shooting based only on Kosugi’s testimony, as they have no witnesses who can testify to the assault, the sources said.

The gunpowder detected on the coat could be sufficient evidence for an arrest, but would not stand up in court as deciding evidence at a trial, where prosecutors face fierce counterarguments from defense lawyers.

Kosugi’s confession, seen to be key to the case, also is unlikely to hold up in court as he said one day that he may have shot the bullets, and on another day that he did not know anything, the sources said.

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