National

Ex-cop fingers cultist over '95 shooting

A former police officer who was arrested Wednesday over the 1995 shooting of the then National Police Agency chief has told investigators that a senior Aum Shinrikyo figure now on death row had ordered him to help the cult carry out the ambush, investigative sources said Thursday.

Police believe cultist Kiyohide Hayakawa, 54, whose death sentence has been upheld by a high court in connection with seven criminal counts, arranged the shooting. They said witnesses reported seeing a man resembling Hayakawa near the ambush site on the day of the attack.

They therefore consider the allegations made by Toshiyuki Kosugi, 39, the former policeman who was also in Aum, as corroborating their suspicions, the sources said.

Kosugi, who is thought to have joined Aum around 1988, was arrested along with three other Aum figures on suspicion of involvement in the ambush on March 30, 1995, when then NPA chief Takaji Kunimatsu was shot three times in the stomach, but survived.

According to the sources, Kosugi has stated that he was inspired by Hayakawa, who told him he needed his support for “salvation.”

Hayakawa was quoted as telling Kosugi on the day of the attack: “I know you have tried your best (for Aum), and our leader (Aum founder Shoko Asahara) expects you to continue the efforts.

“Are you insensitive to the possible annihilation of Aum? We have to depend on you (to maintain the cult).”

The shooting occurred eight days after Tokyo police launched a series of raids targeting Aum, triggered by the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system March 20, 1995. Kunimatsu was directing the investigation into Aum, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.

In the months after the ambush, Kosugi confessed to the shooting. He told police that cased the scene several times. A man believed to be Hayakawa was also seen near Kunimatsu’s house the day before the attack, the sources said.

Hayakawa joined Aum in 1986 and was one of its longest-serving members. He was dubbed the “construction minister” within the cult.

Hayakawa and Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, are among 12 individuals who have been sentenced to death for a series of Aum-related crimes.

Although investigators have met Hayakawa at the Tokyo Detention House, he has refused to admit he was involved in the shooting.

In May 1996, Kosugi made what police reckoned was a false confession to shooting Kunimatsu. In October that year, police divers searched the Kanda River in Tokyo on the basis of this confession, but were unable to find the handgun he said he had used to shoot the NPA chief. Kosugi was later fired and went to work in a factory in Shizuoka.

Tokyo prosecutors pressed no charges against him, lacking corroborating evidence.

While questioning Kosugi, investigators have separately discovered that Hayakawa arranged four or five meetings prior to the shooting with cult members who carried out the attack, the sources said.

Police believe Hayakawa assigned the cultists their specific roles in the ambush at these meetings, including the suspected shooter, Satoru Hashimoto, who has been sentenced to hang for other crimes, they said.

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