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A key figure in the Aum Shinrikyo saga on Thursday insisted on the witness stand that she was never a cult follower but only joined Aum’s religious activities because she believed doing so would enable her to contact her late husband.

The woman was testifying at cult founder Shoko Asahara’s 118th trial hearing, which marked the beginning of his fourth year of trials.

The woman, whose name is being withheld, is the sister of Kiyoshi Kariya, a Tokyo notary public allegedly killed by cultists. His death came as he was trying to get his sister to sever relations with Aum after it asked her to donate all her assets.

Kariya was allegedly abducted from a Tokyo street on Feb. 28, 1995, drugged and taken to Aum’s facilities in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, where he was allegedly killed the following day. Taking the witness stand at the Tokyo District Court, Kariya’s sister said her encounter with Aum started at a cult-run yoga class. She said she was unaware the class was related to the cult and that the instructor was a follower until sometime later.

She repeatedly denied that she was a cult follower but said she eventually joined Aum’s religious activities because followers told her the cult’s initiation programs and practices would enable her to gain the power to contact her late husband.

Earlier in the day, the defense team also questioned cult chemist Seiichi Endo about Aum’s alleged sarin nerve gas attack in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

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