Four people linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult arrested this month over the 1995 shooting of the National Police Agency chief were released Wednesday after prosecutors failed to charge them based on what they thought was new evidence.
Yoshiyuki Kosugi, 39, a former cult member and former police officer, and three others were arrested July 7 in the shooting of Takaji Kunimatsu near his home in Tokyo, just days after police launched raids on AUM following the doomsday cult‘s fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
The three others are AUM member Mitsuo Sunaoshi, 36, Tetsuya Uemura, 49, and Koichi Ishikawa, 35, both former senior AUM members.
The authorities had until Wednesday to charge them.
In May 1996, Kosugi told police that he was the gunman. Prosecutors, however, could not find any hard evidence backing the statement and dropped the case at that time.
But Kosugi, who collaborated with investigations, reversed his statement, saying he lent a coat to a man who looked like former AUM member Satoru Hashimoto, whom police believe was the actual gunman.
But Hashimoto, 37, who is appealing a death sentence over a separate case, has denied the allegation that he shot and severely wounded Kunimatsu.
The coat had been found to have the gunpowder matching that of the bullets in the shooting, according to the police.
But Kosugi has now been claiming that it was he that did the shooting, the police said.
Kunimatsu was shot and severely wounded in front of his home in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward on March 30, 1995, eight days after the police launched raids on AUM following the sarin gas attack. The attack took place on March 20 that year.
Kosugi, Sunaoshi and Uemura were arrested for attempted murder, while Ishikawa was arrested over an explosion at a religious scholar’s house, an act which the police believe was carried out on the orders of AUM founder Shoko Asahara to confuse police investigations into the Kunimatsu shooting.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.
The statute of limitation for the shooting of Kunimatsu expires in six years.