Ex-Aum members speak out

Former devotees unhappy with lack of Matsumoto testimony

Former followers of Aum Supreme Truth cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, have vented their feelings in letters sent to The Yomiuri Shimbun after the Tokyo High Court on Monday rejected an objection filed by lawyers fighting to appeal Matsumoto’s death sentence.

Matsumoto’s death sentence will be upheld if a appeal by the defense counsel to the top court is rejected.

“I wanted [Matsumoto] to give us the truth one day. I’ll be unhappy if the trial concludes this way,” said former Aum executive member Kiyohide Hayakawa, 56, who has been sentenced to death for his involvement in seven crimes, including the murder of lawyer Tsutumi Sakamoto and his family.

Hayakawa sent two letters to The Yomiuri Shimbun after the Tokyo High Court refused to hear an appeal filed by Matsumoto’s defense team on March 27.

“I feel my execution date, as well as my trial, has been moved up. I feel former followers are to be executed one after another, to say nothing of Matsumoto’s execution. I feel like I am preparing myself for that day once again,” Hayakawa writes.

“If Matsumoto is to be executed without testifying, he will become a martyr [as his followers would believe] the trial had been forced to an end,” he said. “This may create a new image of the guru [among followers].”

In May, former Aum executive member Kenichi Hirose, 41, who was sentenced to death for releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, wrote a letter to the newspaper.

“If Matsumoto is going to have his death sentence finalized without testifying, fails to atone for his actions and maintains a barrier of self-containment, I’ve nothing to say to him,” he said.

“It’s understandable for people to think it unnecessary to take more time for the trial [of Matsumoto],” he said. “If he comes to his senses one day, he will be furious about the result. But I think it’s natural, considering his insincere attitude.”

Shizue Takahashi, 59, who lost her husband in the sarin nerve gas attack, said the Tokyo High Court’s decision to reject the objection by Matsumoto’s defense team was “just one hurdle.”

“I want the Supreme Court to make a commonsense decision. As the trial is prolonged, bereaved families are dying without knowing the outcome,” she said.

Lawyer Taro Takimoto, who was attacked four times by the cult with sarin gas attacks in 1994, said the High Court’s decision was appropriate.

Former Aum followers, as well as the victims and bereaved families of the cult’s crimes–including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system–are watching how things turn out.

The Public Security Investigation Agency’s senior official said it needs to prepare for unexpected events following Matsumoto’s execution. The agency set up a special investigation headquarters for Matsumoto’s trial three days after the High Court dismissed the appeal in March.

In April, the agency inspected Aum’s major facilities.

Currently, there is conflict in the cult between a group led by Fumihiro Joyu, 43, and an anti-Joyu group that idolizes Matsumoto.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan
June 1, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 31, 2006.
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