Day of Judgment: Aum’s sarin attack fouled raid plan

This is the eighth installment of a series on Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]
[Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10][Part 11] [Part 12]

The superintendent general’s office on the 11th floor of the Metropolitan Police Department in Sakuradamon, Tokyo, was somber on the night of March 20, 1995, when the city’s subway system was attacked by sarin gas.

The superintendent general, the deputy superintendent general and three directors of the Criminal Investigation, Public Security and Security bureaus were making a crucial decision on how to raid the Aum Supreme Truth cult facilities.

The MPD and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office held talks and agreed on March 16 to search all Aum facilities on March 22, including those in Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture. But after the cult’s sarin gas threat proved real, the plan appeared difficult to execute.

Some at the meeting were cautious, saying the front line was too long to raid Kamikuishikimura, and that there were not enough officers. Such opinions were countered by Yukihiro Inoue, then MPD superintendent, who said: “They’re trying to prevent us from coming to Kamikuishikimura. We’ll lose if we yield. This is war.”

“We can’t understand why it was reported that sarin was produced from raw material for pesticides and fertilizers,” Chizuo Matsumoto, 48, said in video footage filmed for a television news report after the religious group was searched.

He said the large amount of confiscated chemicals were only raw materials for producing pesticides and fertilizers.

Matsumoto reportedly was afraid of the raid. Aum members began destroying documents in the group’s facility in Kamikuishikimura the day before the raid.

From his hideout in the back of the facility, Matsumoto reportedly ordered his followers who were directly involved in the sarin attack to flee.

A few days after the raid, a female follower in the Satian No. 1 building of the facility received a memo from the group’s defense agency director general, saying Matsumoto was hiding in a secret room in Satian No. 6.

She was embarrassed and wished Matsumoto would show some dignity, she said.

Aum’s intelligence minister, Yoshihiro Inoue, 34, was ordered by Matsumoto on April 16, to bomb an industrial complex and carry out terrorist attacks until the Cabinet was replaced and Self-Defense Forces staged a coup d’etat.

Aum followers were being arrested. The police were tightening the noose around the group. Matsumoto, who was in dire straits, tried to stage his final counteroffensive with his hard-core followers.

Meanwhile, the police were divided on what charges Matsumoto should be arrested on.

According to a then senior investigator, the MPD, which feared another terrorist attack, pushed for charges of preparing to commit murder by producing sarin because the charge was immediately applicable.

The Public Prosecutors Office, however, insisted that they wait until the murder charge, which may lead to the death penalty, could be applied to Matsumoto.

Senior officials of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, Tokyo District High Public Prosecutors Office and Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office held a meeting on April 25. They agreed to apply murder charges for Matsumoto.

They also agreed that the Aum Supreme Truth Cult was a fanatical organization that said its crimes were justified. It was agreed that the murder charge would be used to imply the termination of the group, to alarm the followers and urge them to disclose the activities of the organization.

As if to mock the arrest plan initiated by prosecutors, Inoue and others attacked Shinjuku railway station with hydrocyanic acid gas on May 5 after Matsumoto ordered them to continue conducting terrorist attacks.

Ikuo Hayashi, 57, convicted for launching the sarin attack on the subway system, confessed to committing the crime to police late on the following night. Hayashi admitted to the entire story, which included reporting the attack to Matsumoto.

Masami Tsuchiya and Seiichi Endo who were key in producing the sarin gas, began their confession, giving the basis for arresting Matsumoto on a murder charge.

“The guru and executives weren’t arrested and terrorism continued,” a prosecutor said. “We didn’t know whether we could win the war or not, but we confronted the suspects under the pressure of the whole nation of Japan.”

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Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan
Feb. 19, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 19, 2004.
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