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Aum cultist Hirata reiterates plea of ignorance

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Aum Shinrikyo ex-fugitive Makoto Hirata repeated Monday that he had no prior knowledge about the cult’s 1995 plans to kidnap and confine Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya as he testified for the first time in his ongoing trial.

Hirata, who turned himself in on New Year’s Eve 2011 after 17 years on the lam, stands accused of three counts, including the 1995 kidnapping-and-confinement of Kariya and the bombing of the condominium of a sympathetic university professor.

He argued that he was told very little of the plan to snatch Kariya by his Aum superiors, whom he said had spoken too fast and made no reference to the victim, nor used the word “kidnap.” Hirata claimed he was only told to “free” Kariya’s wealthy sister from her family’s “detention” and “rescue” her and bring her back to the cult.

“Also, I was very sleepy at the time of the conversation. So my brain was not functioning well,” he said, attempting to reaffirm his claim that he had not intended to participate in the abduction.

Throughout Monday’s session, Hirata did everything he could to emphasize that his disenchantment with the doomsday cult had been growing to the point that he started taking defiant actions against guru Shoko Asahara, whom he described as “shady” and “obsessed with silly paranoia.”

Hirata joined the cult in 1987 at age 22, and soon afterward decided to renounce the world. But he said his loyalty to the guru began to waver as the cult became bellicose in the 1990s.

Hirata said he was bewildered to find some cultists running in the 1990 Lower House election. They were soundly defeated.

“The cult was all enthusiastic about how necessary it was for us to renounce the world,” he said. “So it was not making any sense that it was trying so hard to appeal to the worldly society.”

Hirata remembered Asahara one day announcing to his disciples that the cult would make a drastic change in policy that would even allow it to justify the use of force to achieve its ambitions. The guru then dared them to raise their hands if they couldn’t accept the change, the defendant said.

“I raised my hand or stood up to show my opposition and I was the only one to do so,” Hirata testified. “I thought, please don’t get me involved in this kind of nonsense.”