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Hirata feared arrest in police chief shooting: girlfriend

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Ex-Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata stayed on the run for 17 years in part because he feared he might be wrongfully charged in the 1995 shooting of the National Police Agency chief if he turned himself in, the cultist’s girlfriend testified in court Monday.

The woman, a former Aum member whose name has been withheld, harbored Hirata for the 17 years he was on the run. She told the Tokyo District Court that the pair decided to avoid turning themselves in until after the statute of limitations for the shooting ended in 2010.

Word spread soon after the shooting of Takaji Kunimatsu, who was seriously wounded, that Hirata might have been behind the ambush. No arrest was ever made in the crime.

“Back then, the society wouldn’t believe a word you said if you were from Aum,” the woman said, explaining why Hirata waited until 2011 to turn himself in.

The woman, who spent 14 months behind bars for harboring him, also stressed she initially had no idea Hirata was involved in any illegal activities plotted by the doomsday cult. Hirata also stands accused in connection with the 1995 kidnapping and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya.

“He just told me to come with him (without explaining why),” the woman said.

It was only after police put Hirata on the wanted list and disclosed his alleged involvement in some of the atrocities laid to Aum that she became aware they were actually “on the run,” she said.

The woman also testified that Hirata complained to her that he got involved in the Kariya kidnapping before fully understanding the orders “machine-gunned” by his Aum superiors.

“He also told me he was utterly devastated to hear Kariya had passed away (during his captivity),” she said, corroborating the defendant’s claim that he had no foreknowledge of the notary’s abduction.

She also said Hirata had completely stopped worshiping Aum founder Shoko Asahara while on the run, put off by the guru’s uncaring attitude in court.

“I’ll keep waiting for him until he finishes his (sentence),” the woman said of Hirata. “I’ll do what I can to support him emotionally.”