Ex-cultist arrested for harboring Aum Shinrikyo’s Hirata

A former AUM Shinrikyo follower who turned herself in to Tokyo police early Tuesday was arrested later in the day on suspicion of harboring a former senior member of the cult, who was apprehended on New Year’s Day after surrendering to the police.

Kyodo News reports

Akemi Saito, 49, who allegedly helped Makoto Hirata, 46, evade the police for nearly 17 years, has admitted to the charges, telling investigators, “I sheltered him and was with him all the time.”

Hirata turned himself in on Dec. 31 and was arrested Jan. 1 on suspicion of conspiring with AUM founder Shoko Asahara and his followers to abduct the chief clerk at a notary office in Tokyo in February 1995, who eventually died.

At the time of her surrender shortly after 3 a.m., Saito was accompanied by lawyer Taro Takimoto, who has been interviewing Hirata.

Takimoto quoted Saito as saying she worked during their fugitive life while Hirata stayed at home and that she did not receive any money from the cult apart from an initial amount. […]

Saito, a former nurse from Fukushima Prefecture, became an AUM member in 1993. Her whereabouts was unknown after the police searched AUM’s key facilities in 1995 following the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system masterminded by Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. […]

She was on the wanted list on suspicion of falsifying documents and helping another former AUM member escape, but the statute of limitations on both cases had expired by 2000.

The Penal Code sets punishment of up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 200,000 yen for harboring or enabling the escape of a person who has committed a crime.

Hirata Knew About Kidnapping Plan, Former Members Say

Meanwhile The Mainichi Daily News says that convicted former Aum Shinrikyo cult members have told investigators that Makoto Hirata knew he was assisting with kidnapping:

In response to questioning by Metropolitan Police Department officers, the former cult members said that Makoto Hirata, 46, was heavily involved with the kidnapping, with Yoshihiro Inoue, 42, saying Hirata was “involved from the planning meetings.”

That information clashes with what Hirata has said. Hirata has said he only drove a car at Inoue’s instructions and did not know he was helping with the kidnapping of Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, a notary public. Hirata said he thought he and the others had come to bring back Kariya’s sister, who had previously left the cult, and was surprised when he saw Kariya being abducted.

The Associated Press writes

According to court testimony, cult members kidnapped, murdered and then burned the body of Kiyoshi Kariya, the brother of a follower trying to quit the group. They put Kariya’s body in an incinerator inside the cult’s commune and disposed of the ashes in a nearby lake.

Public broadcaster NHK said Hirata has told police he drove Kariya to the compound but has denied other allegations. […]

Hirata is also suspected in the near-fatal shooting of Japan’s top police official, but the high-profile case was closed last year after the statute of limitations expired.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 10, 2012.
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