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Cultist testifies Hirata knew of kidnap plan

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Aum Shinrikyo figure Noboru Nakamura, who is serving a life prison term for murder, testified Friday against ex-fugitive cultist Makoto Hirata, saying the defendant, despite his denial, had prior knowledge that he would be involved in the 1995 abduction and confinement of a Tokyo notary.

Hirata stands accused of being involved in the kidnapping and confinement of Kiyoshi Kariya, who, according to earlier testimony by convicted cultists, was brutally tortured by members of Aum trying to track down his wealthy sister, who had fled the cult. Kariya is believed to have died in captivity and was cremated. His body was never found.

Hirata is claiming that he knew nothing of the abduction ahead of time, stressing he only drove a getaway car and thought he was actually on a mission to capture Kariya’s sister.

Nakamura, who played an active role in abducting Kariya, argued he had explained to Hirata beforehand what they were about to do “in the clearest terms possible.” Although acknowledging that he did not use the word “kidnap,” Nakamura nonetheless asserted there was no communication problem and Hirata clearly understood his orders.

“I knew Hirata had never joined any illegal activities by (the cult) before. So I made sure to use easy-to-understand terms in explaining the plan,” Nakamura said. “I told him explicitly the target was Kariya,” not his sister.

Nakamura also said he had initially balked at kidnapping Kariya, doubting it was possible.

But Shoko Asahara, the enigmatic guru of the doomsday cult, assured him it would work if Hirata served as a sniper. Having shooting experience, Hirata was well trusted for his marksmanship, and Nakamura told him to fire the beam of a laser rifle into Kariya’s eyes to temporarily blind him so he would be disorientated. The rifle was not used.

A former girlfriend of Aum death-row inmate Tomomasa Nakagawa also testified.

She said she gave Hirata money to flee to help start his 17 years on the run.

As she entered, Tokyo District Court staff scrambled to set up a huge board to block her from the public gallery’s view in an apparent bid to ensure her emotional stability. Now back in society after spending 18 months in prison, the woman expressed her wish to remain anonymous.

The woman joined the cult in 1988, and later became involved in producing the deadly sarin gas the cult is most notorious for.

Speaking clearly, the woman said she gave Hirata ¥10 million to help him escape. When Hirata came to her for help, she instinctively understood that he was in trouble, but didn’t know why.

She described Hirata as cordial and humble, despite his apparent solemnness and tough-guy look. Meanwhile, she said she first thought Asahara looked squalid. Her revulsion at him further intensified, she said, after she discovered the guru was concealing a group of undocumented kids he had fathered with his concubines.

“I thought, ‘Why could a man who can’t even take responsibility for his own kids be responsible for anything else?’ “

Now a full-time company employee, the woman said just serving a prison term won’t make Hirata fully overcome his guilt.

“(Once being released), you have to actively try and appreciate the importance of a human life. Only then will you be able to understand the gravity of what the cult did in killing it.”