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Death-row cultist puts Hirata in kidnap frame

Aum's ex-intel chief Inoue says defendant's claim of no foreknowledge of Kariya abduction plan a lie

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A condemned Aum Shinrikyo killer testified Monday against ex-fugitive cultist Makoto Hirata, contradicting the defendant’s claim that he was not aware before the fact that he was going to help in the 1995 abduction and confinement of a Tokyo notary.

Death-row inmate Yoshihiro Inoue, who was once the intelligence chief of Aum Shinrikyo, appeared at the Tokyo District Court under extremely tight security, becoming the second condemned cultist summoned to testify publicly under the lay judge system. The first, Tomomasa Nakagawa, testified last month.

Inoue was convicted for his role in 10 crimes orchestrated by the cult, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system that resulted in 13 deaths and thousands of injuries. His death sentence was finalized in 2010.

Regarding the kidnap and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya, Inoue was convicted for directing the operation. Kariya’s wealthy sister had fled the cult because it was pressing for her to sell her properties, and the cultists thought he knew where she was. Testimony in previous trials indicated Kariya died of an overdose of a drug used as a truth serum and was cremated. His body was never found.

As he made his appearance, Inoue squeezed out a painful, tearful apology: “I’m terribly sorry for Mr. Kariya, his family and every single victim tormented by Aum, including those permanently damaged by our crimes.”

In the ninth session of Hirata’s trial, Inoue emphasized that the defendant, despite his persistent denials, was keenly aware he was participating in the abduction and confinement of Kariya.

Hirata is arguing that he had no knowledge of the planned attack on Kariya, stressing that he believed his mission was to retrieve the notary’s sister. Hirata also claims he was originally told to fire a laser beam at Kariya’s supposed bodyguard to leave him briefly disoriented, but eventually drove a getaway car.

Inoue said with confidence that he clearly recalled that he and another senior Aum member, Noboru Nakamura, had “explicitly” told Hirata beforehand what the plan was, who the target was and what Hirata’s responsibilities would be. Asked by prosecutors if he really identified Kariya, not his sister, as the intended target, the death-row convict responded with an emphatic “yes.”

Although conceding that Nakamura had a tendency to stutter and he himself to speak too fast, Inoue nonetheless maintained their flawed speaking didn’t affect their delivery.

Inoue said that after other members successfully abducted Kariya while he himself was away from the crime scene, Hirata matter-of-factly told him that the abduction went much easier than expected.

On Kariya’s death, Inoue wrote a letter to his family in 2011 confiding that Tomomasa Nakagawa, who practiced medicine, may have intentionally killed Kariya by injecting him with an untested drug that he knew would be fatal. Nakagawa, who had played a core part in torturing Kariya during his captivity, claimed during his court appearance last month that Inoue was wrong and reiterated that he had never predicted Kariya would die.

“I remember Nakagawa telling me (after Kariya’s death) he thought this was a rare opportunity to test his new drug,” Inoue said, adding the doctor vividly recounted his “mystical experience” witnessing Kariya’s soul gradually leaving his body.