Prosecutors demanded a four-year prison sentence Tuesday for Hisako Ishii, a core member of Aum Shinrikyo, for allegedly abetting the flight of three cult fugitives, forging accounting documents and conspiring to destroy the body of a cultist.
Ishii, 37, is on trial before the Tokyo District Court for her alleged role in cremating the body of Naoki Ochi, who was believed to have died in 1993 after he was hung upside down for over 90 minutes for punishment. The cause of death was unspecified.
Prosecutors said Ishii hid Ochi’s death and oversaw the cremation in a microwave-type device because she feared that criticism from both inside and outside the cult about its dubious activities might prevent Aum from growing.
To this end, she lied about seeing Ochi’s body and claiming he was in a state of spiritual ecstasy, and hid his death from other members, saying Ochi had run away from the cult, prosecutors said.
They alleged that Ishii, who wielded the power of the purse as Aum’s “finance minister,” provided 5 million yen in cash and a car to Kenichi Hirose and Masato Yokoyama, both 34, to help them escape police. The two are now on trial along with other cultists for allegedly releasing the nerve gas sarin in the March 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Ishii is also accused of providing 30 million yen to Seiichi Endo, 38, who was wanted for his alleged role in producing sarin for the cult, to help him dodge police.
Ishii has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming she acted only on orders and was under “mind control.” Cult leader Shoko Asahara’s male chauvinism had removed her from the center of the cult’s administration, she claimed in earlier testimony.
Ishii further claimed that when she gave cash to the fugitives, she was unaware of the cult’s role in the sarin attack and did not know how the money would be used.
Prosecutors said her position of authority in the cult could not have excluded her from all knowledge of the sarin attack. “The defendant was virtually the cult’s second in command,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Among the cult leaders, she was the most trusted by (Asahara) and attended all important meetings where (he) presided.”
When Hirose and Yokoyama asked Ishii for a car, prosecutors said Ishii showed a complete grasp of the situation and directed that they be given one not registered with the cult and with an engine of at least 2,000cc. This was to further aid the pair’s flight, prosecutors said.
Ishii, who gave birth to two of Asahara’s children, first came into contact with the cult in 1984.
In a surprising 21-page statement read to the court in May last year, Ishii denounced her belief in the cult, called her devotion to the guru “a mistake” and said she believed the cult was responsible for the sarin attack.
Her devotion and willingness to give all her possessions to the cult have been credited with encouraging others to give to Aum’s vast reserves of cash and property.
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