Lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo figure Kiyohide Hayakawa sought to emphasize his human side Sept. 25 at his trial hearing, saying he is deeply repentant and has testified candidly, in the trials of other cult defendants, about his involvement in various crimes.

Hayakawa, 48, is suspected of taking part in a series of crimes, including the November 1989 slayings of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, the attorney’s wife and their 1-year-old son.

The court convened for the opening statement by the defense Sept. 25, after hearing the prosecution’s case for about 1 1/2 years. Hayakawa’s lawyers tried to tone down the popular image of their client as Aum’s so-called No. 2 man. “Various media organizations, ranging from TV, weeklies to other magazines, had cooked up a stereotyped image of the defendant, repeatedly calling him ‘the mastermind,’ ‘No. 2,’ ‘the guy who manipulates (Aum founder Shoko) Asahara,’ ‘the only man whose mind is not controlled,’ and ‘the guy who has led Aum Shinrikyo’s efforts to arm itself,'” one lawyer read aloud from the statement. “We had held the same perception before meeting him. But it took us little time to find that these were false images.”

Hayakawa’s counsel also cited a lack of advance planning on the part of five cultists who stand accused of the Sakamoto murders, claiming it is “highly questionable whether the definitive intent to kill had existed” before they broke into the family’s apartment.

The lawyers believe the slayings came about from a string of unfortunate happenstances, including that the victims’ door was unlocked. “According to the defendant, the murder plot of Nov. 3 would have been canceled had the door been locked,” the lawyer said.

The defense also challenged the testimony of Kazuaki Okazaki, a key cultist also accused in the Sakamoto killings. Okazaki has testified that on the night before the murders, Asahara summoned Okazaki into his room and declared his decision to kill the Sakamoto family after consulting with Hayakawa. Hayakawa has denied that such a conversation took place.

“The defendant, unlike Okazaki, has no intention of blurring or playing down his involvement, or trying to exaggerate other defendants’ responsibilities,” the statement said. “While many of the indicted followers have remained mum (about their involvement), the defendant has testified about what he remembers in each of the hearings he has been called to.”

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