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Cultist says Hirata unaware of bomb

Third death-row inmate testifies defendant was fed up with Aum

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A condemned Aum Shinrikyo member testified Wednesday in the Tokyo District Court that fellow cultist Makoto Hirata had no foreknowledge of the 1995 bombing of a professor’s condominium.

Nicknamed by the tabloid media as “Mr. Killing Machine,” Yasuo Hayashi played a major role in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, himself accounting for eight of the 13 fatalities.

Hayashi, whose death sentence was finalized in 2008, was the third death-row inmate to testify in Hirata’s trial. Among other charges, Hirata is on trial for allegedly taking part in the Tokyo condo bombing.

In the 11th session of the trial, Hayashi said that neither he nor Hirata were told beforehand of the bombing of the home of Hiromi Shimada, who was a Japan Women’s University professor at the time and considered an Aum sympathizer.

Aum pulled off the bombing to create the illusion among the public that it was under some kind of religious persecution and deflect police attention from its own wrongdoings. Prosecutors say Hirata served as a lookout while the bombing unfolded.

Hayashi said he and Hirata were told by another senior cultist, Yoshihiro Inoue, to watch him “go over to the condo and place a paper bag near it.” While waiting in a car, Hayashi and Hirata observed Inoue do the deed, as instructed, both clueless as to what the whole thing was about, Hayashi testified.

After after a few minutes, the bag exploded, Hayashi told the court.

Nearby windows were blown out, but no people were injured in the blast.

“I was angry at Inoue,” Hayashi said. “If the bag contained something like that, he should have told us in advance.”

Describing himself as being on close terms with Hirata, Hayashi said the defendant had grown increasingly fed up with the cult’s reckless transformation into a terrorist organization, especially after his involvement in the 1995 kidnapping and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya.

“I’m so tired of doing anything criminal under Inoue (who directed the Kariya abduction). That guy makes me so sick I don’t want to breathe near him,” Hayashi quoted Hirata as once confiding to him.

This disapproving attitude toward the cult’s policies apparently showed, because Aum guru Shoko Asahara considered Hirata, along with some others, as “possible dissidents,” Hayashi said.

Both Hayashi and Hirata went on the lam after the police raided the cult in 1995. Hayashi was nabbed in 1996, but Hirata remained at large until 2011, when he turned himself in. Hayashi said that before he was apprehended the two managed to meet up in secret one time, adding Hirata intimated to him then that he was ready to turn himself in, citing his relatively lower culpability compared with Hayashi’s.