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Member of deadly Japanese cult will go on trial Jan. 16

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court has decided that the trial of Makoto Hirata, a former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult accused of helping abduct a Tokyo notary clerk in 1995, will begin Jan. 16.

Hirata, 48, will be the first Aum member to be tried under the lay judge system, in which three professional and six citizen judges preside. The verdict will be handed down by the end of March, according to a judicial source.

Three death-row inmates involved in a series of the Aum-related crimes, including Yoshihiro Inoue, 43, will be summoned to testify in the trial.

Hirata is accused of involvement in the abduction and unlawful confinement of 68-year-old Kiyoshi Kariya in February 1995, in conspiracy with Aum founder Shoko Asahara. Kariya later died after being injected with a chemical substance by Aum members.

Hirata is also charged with involvement in a blast at a Tokyo condominium building the following month.

He is expected to argue that he only assisted in Kariya’s abduction and confinement.

Hirata was placed on the national most wanted list in May 1995 and turned himself in to Tokyo police on Dec. 31, 2011.

Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is also on death row.