’95 police chief shooting

Entire picture must be brought to light without delay.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday arrested a former officer and two ex-senior members of Aum Shinrikyo in the shooting nine years ago of Takaji Kunimatsu, commissioner-general of the National Police Agency.

A little more than a year after the shooting, Toshiyuki Kosugi, the former police officer and Aum member, confessed to the crime. However, his confession could not be corroborated. This time, though, he was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice by helping the gunman flee the scene. The other two are presumed to have played similar roles or participated in planning the crime.

So who actually shot Kunimatsu? The police seem to think it was another former member of Aum Shinrikyo, but they have yet to arrest him. The police will have their hands full trying to flesh out the total picture.

When Kunimatsu was shot, Japan was reeling from the March 20 sarin nerve-gas attack perpetrated by Aum on the Tokyo subway system. The attack left 12 people dead and thousands sickened.

Two days later, the MPD conducted extensive raids on cult facilities in Yamanashi Prefecture. Eight days later, Kunimatsu was shot.

The criminal investigation into the shooting made little headway over the years and on occasion investigators found themselves back to square one.

About a year after the shooting, Kosugi told MPD officers that he shot Kunimatsu on orders from his higher-ups. He said he threw the gun into a Tokyo river. But it was never found.

Many of Kosugi’s statements did not match the known facts. For instance, he said that when he cased the scene beforehand, he was questioned by another police officer. Kosugi said he was let go after showing the officer his own policeman’s notebook, which often serves official identification. But the MPD said there was no record of an officer questioning Kosugi.

Now, police say that an officer did indeed question Kosugi near the scene of the crime a few days before Kunimatsu was shot. It seems very strange to us that police didn’t know Kosugi had been questioned by an officer when investigators were working feverishly around the clock trying to solve the crime.

It also seems strange that the MPD’s Public Safety Division did not inform the National Police Agency for several months that its officers had interviewed Kosugi about the shooting.

When the facts of the interview came to light later on, the MPD took disciplinary action and replaced the chief of the Public Safety Division. The superintendent-general also resigned to take blame.

Lately, the police began conducting tests on an overcoat belonging to Kosugi. They found traces of gunpowder which was presumed to have been discharged when Kunimatsu was shot. In deciding to finally arrest Kosugi, the police apparently concluded that he had been telling the truth after all.

But who gave the order to shoot Kunimatsu and how did the conspirators plan the shooting? And who played what role in this crime? Unless these questions are answered, the case to be made by public prosecutors will never stand up in court. Nor will the police be able to say they had solved this mysterious case.

In April 1995, one month after Kunimatsu was shot, a confidant of Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of Aum Shinrikyo, was stabbed to death by a mobster. The killer was arrested on the spot and he was sent to prison. This killing, too, is shrouded in mystery. The background of the killing remains unknown. Too many mysterious points remain unanswered about Aum Shinrikyo.

Aum Shinrikyo subsequently renamed itself Aleph. The group still retains considerable influence. Kunimatsu’s shooting is the biggest mystery involving the cult. That is another reason why the entire picture must be brought to light without delay.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Asahi Shimbun, Japan
July 8, 2004 Editorial

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 8, 2004.
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