One-time Aum Shinrikyo lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama testified Thursday that he never thought the cult was involved in the mysterious disappearance of a Yokohama lawyer and his family when he first heard they were missing in November 1989.A witness for the prosecution, Aoyama took the stand in the trial of Shoko Asahara, answering questions from lawyers representing the founder of the cult in a matter-of-fact manner, often claiming, “I don’t remember small details.”Lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and 1-year-old son are believed to have been killed on Nov. 4, 1989, by six cultists on Asahara’s orders. Their bodies were found buried in separate locations in central Japan after police questioned cultists arrested after the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attack.Aoyama, 37, said he met with Sakamoto, who was representing parents hoping to get their children out of the cult, at the attorney’s office in Yokohama on Oct. 31, 1989, four days before the family disappeared from their condominium. In testimony last May, Aoyama said he met with Sakamoto three times between July and October 1989.Aoyama claimed that at their final meeting, he, along with Fumihiro Joyu and Kiyohide Hayakawa, both senior cultists, discussed with the lawyer the complaints from the families and Aum’s religious activities, trying to change Sakamoto’s mind about the cult. “I cannot remember the details, but I had the impression that we could continue talking to each other in the future,” Aoyama said, adding that the atmosphere was friendly when the cultists left Sakamoto’s office.He claimed he learned of the family’s disappearance about 10 days after the visit, when he was asked by other lawyers about an Aum badge that was found at Sakamoto’s condominium, leading to allegations that the cult was involved. “I was really surprised (about the disappearance) … but I didn’t think Aum had anything to do with the matter,” he testified.”Judging from the relations with Sakamoto, I believed Aum had no reason to kill him,” Aoyama claimed.During the hearing, Asahara abruptly stood up several times from the defendant’s seat and was ordered to quietly sit down.
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