A former Aum Shinrikyo follower convicted in 1996 of killing a fellow cultist testified Friday at the Tokyo District Court that he felt no anger or hatred toward his victim, though cult leader Shoko Asahara tried to induce those feelings in him.
Describing his feelings during the 111th session of Asahara’s trial, Hideaki Yasuda, 31, alleged that the guru told him Kotaro Ochida, 29, wanted to kidnap and marry Yasuda’s mother and ultimately murder Yasuda.
“(Yasuda) was a hard-working, clean-cut man,” he said. “I trusted him.”
Yasuda, who had finally left the cult for good by the time of the Jan. 30, 1994, murder, was caught with Ochida by Aum followers as the pair tried to rescue Yasuda’s mother from an Aum facility in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, prosecutors said.
Yasuda strangled Ochida shortly after with a rope in front of Asahara and other cult members when he was told his life would be spared in exchange. Yasuda was sentenced in 1996 for the murder, which the judge dubbed an act of “excessive self-
defense,” to three years in prison, suspended for five years.
Concerning lawyers’ questions about Ochida’s failure to warn Yasuda of the risks involved in the rescue plan, Yasuda said, “I had no feeling whatsoever that I had been suckered into the plan, and did not feel any anger toward Ochida.”
Yasuda said he was taken aback, however, to see that Ochida, who had assured him the rescue would be simple, brought a hunting knife, tear gas and a petrol bomb before breaking into the cult compound.
Yasuda’s mother, also an Aum member, originally entered the facility in November 1991 to receive six months of treatment for Parkinson’s disease, at her son’s suggestion, Yasuda said.
Yasuda formally quit Aum in 1992 but met up with Ochida in 1994, to learn that his mother had been forced to undergo “spiritual training” exercises, which can involve soaking in scalding water for long periods of time.
Yasuda then resolved to bring his mother home.
Drawn to yoga lessons given by the guru, Yasuda, a former music student, joined the cult in May 1987. He said he became a member in part because he was told he could compose music for meditation. Later, he gradually distanced himself from the cult when the guru’s teachings became heavily colored by images of Armageddon.