Former Aum Shinrikyo cultist Naoko Kikuchi pleaded not guilty Thursday to attempted murder, claiming she had no idea she was abetting what would become the 1995 parcel bombing of a Tokyo Metropolitan Government office.
“It is true that I carried chemicals (to my superior cultists) on several occasions. But I swear I had absolutely no idea what purpose they would be used for,” Kikuchi, 42, said at the Tokyo District Court, on the first day of her trial.
The former fugitive was nabbed in 2012 after 17 years on the run. She entered the courtroom Thursday clad in a gray suit, spectacles and her hair braided into a ponytail.
Kikuchi is accused of aiding and abetting an explosion at a City Hall building in May 1995. Under the instruction of her Aum superiors, she admitted to transporting deadly chemicals, including sulfuric acid, from an Aum facility in Yamanashi to another in Tokyo. But she denied she knew they would be used to craft a bomb.
The bomb, addressed to then Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima, was part of the cult’s attempt to kill socially influential people to deflect police attention from the cult’s guru, Shoko Asahara, who went on the lam after the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system two months earlier. The explosion happened on the same day Asahara was captured in a hideout in the cult’s Yamanashi facility.
Despite Kikuchi’s denials, prosecutors argued she must have known of the murderous nature of the mission. They said Kikuchi carried the chemicals in a box of tissue paper to pass the increasingly tight police scrutiny Aum’s Tokyo facility was subjected to at the time.
Masaaki Utsumi, the secretary who opened the parcel and lost all of the fingers on his left hand in the bombing, was summoned to the witness stand later in the day.
Utsumi vividly recalled the ferocity of the blast, which he said propelled bomb fragments into the ceiling and dented his steel desk. He said he only escaped its full force because he was on the phone and reclining slightly in his chair at the time. If he had taken the brunt of the blast, his head would have been blown off, Utsumi recalled prosecutors telling him later.
The explosion nonetheless deprived Utsumi of his ability to handle his full workload and the ability to play catch with his little son, he said.
Although he accepts the tragedy as an unlucky accident, Utsumi said Kikuchi should atone for her actions.
“The fact that she was on the run suggests that she was feeling guilty for what she did,” Utsumi said. “She should make amends for it. That’s what a decent human being would do.”
Kikcuhi joined the cult in 1989 at the age 18. She later represented the cult as a runner in several marathons