A senior member of Aum Shinrikyo — the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways — has been charged in a kidnapping case, one of dozens of cult-related crimes in the 1990s.
Prosecutors will charge longtime Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata with “unlawful capture” and confinement Friday in connection with the fatal abduction of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya in 1995 and will not pursue an indictment over his death, investigative sources said Wednesday.
Tokyo prosecutors apparently concluded it would be difficult to prove Hirata, 46, was aware that Kariya, 68, had been given a drug overdose — administered as a truth serum — that caused his death, and thus will not charge the cultist with manslaughter.
Hirata claimed during questioning after his New Year’s Day arrest that he only learned the circumstances of Kariya’s death after the fact, the sources said. Tokyo police arrested him for the technical charge of unlawful capture and confinement causing death after he turned himself in Dec. 31 after nearly 17 years on the run for the crimes.
Hirata is expected to be served another warrant possibly by the end of this month over his alleged role in a 1995 condominium explosion in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, the sources said.
Court records show that cult leader Shoko Asahara ordered his followers to abduct Kariya to discover the whereabouts of Kariya’s sister who had been in hiding after she tried to leave the cult.
Meanwhile the Mainichi Daily News said that
Japan’s new Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa indicated Friday he may resume issuing orders for executions given that the total number of death row inmates has risen to around 130, the largest number since the end of World War II. […]
He also suggested, meanwhile, he would refrain for the time being from issuing orders for the hanging of AUM Shinrikyo cult members on death row, following the arrest of Makoto Hirata, a former senior AUM member who turned himself in to police last month.
“It’s likely testimony will be heard from the death row inmates. We need to take the point into consideration,” Ogawa said, apparently referring to the ongoing investigation on Hirata, 46, who had been wanted in a 1995 kidnap-killing case, and his upcoming trial.
A total of 13 AUM members, including its founder Shoko Asahara, are on death row over a series of crimes, including sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.
Research resources on AUM shinrikyo
Final police tally confirms 6,583 fell victim to 8 Aum-related crimes
How AUM Shinrikyo justified violence
How cult apologists, including J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, defended Aum Shrinrikyo