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Former Aum Shinrikyo biologist Seiichi Endo, 38, told the court for the first time Thursday that cult founder Shoko Asahara ordered the 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Taking the witness stand during Asahara’s trial hearing at the Tokyo District Court, Endo, who stands accused of playing a key role in the attack that killed seven people, said he was called in by Asahara and told about a plan to “release sarin at a police station and a court.”

Responding to a cross-examination by prosecutors, Endo admitted he was involved in the gassing, claiming that “I went to the gassing site as a member of (the cult’s) medical crew.”

Endo testified that Asahara called a meeting about one week before the June 27, 1994, gas attack and that Endo and the late Hideo Murai — Aum’s top scientist — were in attendance along with senior cult members Tomomitsu Niimi and Tomomasa Nakagawa.

Endo said Asahara chose seven cultists, including Endo, to actually release the gas and gave them detailed roles.

The witness said he heard from the cult’s chemist, Masami Tsuchiya, that Aum had been engaged in sarin production.

Endo also described how Aum developed the deadly gas before the Matsumoto attack and how the cult planned and implemented attacks against the leader of another religious group.

While Endo said sarin is a chemical that can kill people, he said “I did not think so many people would die, though I feel sorry for the victims.” Endo denied passages in a prosecution report saying Endo had expected “grave damage” from the gassing.

At a news conference after the trial, Osamu Watanabe, chief of the Asahara defense team, said the schedule of four trial sessions a month has been a burden on the team and that they may not be able to bear it anymore.

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