Prosecutors seek 12 years for Aum ex-fugitive Hirata over kidnapping

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Prosecutors asked Thursday for a 12-year prison term for ex-Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, saying that despite his denials, he knew what he was doing when he took part in the “malicious” 1995 kidnapping and confinement of a Tokyo notary and other crimes.

“The role he played in the organized crimes was not at all minor,” the prosecutors said in their closing statement at the Tokyo District Court. “He terrified people in society by staying on the run for around 17 years.”

Aside from the kidnapping of Kiyoshi Kariya, Hirata is accused of two other counts, including the 1995 bombing of a university professor’s condominium.

The verdict is scheduled for March 7.

Hirata claims he had no foreknowledge of the kidnapping or the bombing.

But during the trial’s final session, the prosecutors cited the testimony of two of his cult superiors, Noboru Nakamura and Yoshihiro Inoue, who said they had “clearly” informed Hirata beforehand of their plan to kidnap the 68-year-old Kariya.

They also said Hirata had allegedly reported to Inoue after the abduction that it “went much smoother than expected,” a remark they described as coming from someone who obviously had been aware of the plan. Hirata denied in the court that he ever made that comment.

Hirata claimed he had little time to fully comprehend the barrage of orders coming from Inoue and Nakamura, and claimed he acted only as the getaway driver.

The bombing of professor Hiromi Shimada’s condo was carried out the day before the infamous sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 people and injured thousands.

The prosecutors said that by attacking Shimada, who was sympathetic to Aum, the cultists hoped to deflect suspicion over the forthcoming gas attack by appearing to be the victims of an attack themselves.

Hirata was not accused of planting the bomb, only of standing guard while it was planted.