Ex-Aum member Hirata gives himself up, ends 16 years as fugitive

Kyodo

Makoto Hirata, a former leading member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult who has been on the run for more than 16 years, turned himself in to police late Saturday, police said Sunday.

Hirata, 46, who had been on a wanted list since May 1995, was immediately arrested on suspicion of involvement in a conspiracy with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and other followers to abduct Kiyoshi Kariya, chief clerk at a notary office in Tokyo, in February 1995.

Hirata is also charged with conspiring to place Kariya in confinement, inject him with a chemical and causing his death on March 1, 1995.

Hirata was one of three former cult members still on the run in connection with a series of heinous crimes by the group, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The last trial of those already in custody concluded late last year.

Hirata came to the Marunouchi Police Station in downtown Tokyo at 11:50 p.m. Saturday and was identified by a fingerprint match, the police said.

Hirata was quoted as saying that he turned himself in because he wanted a sense of closure after fleeing from the police for a long time. He was carrying a backpack and had tens of thousands of yen with him, police said.

Of the allegations against him, Hirata has only admitted to driving the vehicle involved in the abduction, but said during an interrogation that he is sorry that Kariya died, according to the police.

Hirata made no statements about where he had been hiding or about the cult founder Asahara, according to a senior Tokyo police officer.

Hirata joined the cult in about 1987. As Hirata had participated in gun shooting competitions as a sport before entering Aum, the police also suspect he may have been involved in the shooting in 1995 of Takaji Kunimatsu, then chief of the National Policy Agency.

The two other former Aum members who are wanted are Naoko Kikuchi, 40, and Katsuya Takahashi, 53. Both are suspected of involvement in the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and 12 followers have already had death sentences finalized.

Aum Shinrikyo renamed itself Aleph in 2000. It remains under surveillance by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency. In 2007, a senior member and some followers left Aleph to launch a splinter group called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light).