The Asahara Trial: Commuter recalls gas attack victims

A Tokyo company employee described in court May 23 how he helped three victims of the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, for which some members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo are now on trial.

Kazuo Ito appeared before the Tokyo District Court as a prosecution witness in the murder trial for 42-year-old Shoko Asahara, the founder of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult who stands accused of masterminding the attack. His real name is Chizuo Matsumoto

During the hearing he mumbled continuously in Japanese and English, sometimes moving his head vertically in a violent manner. He was heard once saying “never kill” in English.

Ito said one of the victims was probably already dead when he placed her in his car on his way to work near Kodenmacho subway station in Chuo Ward the morning of March 20, 1995. Ito said he parked his car on the road as someone flagged him down for help. He saw 30 to 40 people lying on the ground nearby, some of them covering their faces with handkerchiefs. He said he went to the assistance of two women and a man. One of the women, Takako Iwata, 33, was unconscious, her limbs were cold and a member of the emergency services told him she had no pulse.

The other woman seemed in slightly better condition, but Ito said he does not know what became of her after he drove the three victims to a nearby hospital. Iwata was pronounced dead on arrival.

The male victim was able to enter the car by himself and told Ito that many people had inhaled poison gas in the subway. Ito himself suffered discomfort to his eyes for the next few days, he said, adding that even now he suffers from possible aftereffects.