National

Aum suspects may evade charges in NPA shooting

Prosecutors may not indict four men linked to Aum Shinrikyo who have been arrested over the 1995 shooting of the National Police Agency chief, due to a lack of credible evidence, investigation sources said Sunday.

As doubts linger over the credibility of testimony by former police officer Toshiyuki Kosugi, one of the four under arrest, prosecutors believe it would be difficult to sustain a trial without being able to pinpoint who actually shot Takaji Kunimatsu, the sources said.

Prosecutors have until Wednesday to decide whether to file charges.

The others, arrested along with Kosugi on July 7, are two former senior Aum members — Tetsuya Uemura, 49, and Koichi Ishikawa, 35 — and current member Mitsuo Sunaoshi, 36.

Kosugi was also a former member of Aum. He told investigators in 1996 he shot the police chief and that the gun was dumped into the Kanda River. The police could not find the weapon and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office did not press charges against him due to a lack of corroborative evidence.

As the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department continued investigations, Kosugi, who collaborated with investigators, then made new claims that he had lent a coat to a man who looked like former Aum member Satoru Hashimoto, whom police believe was the triggerman in the shooting.

As a result, police went ahead with the arrests of the four earlier this month after finding that gunpowder on the coat matched that of the bullets in the shooting, the sources said.

Kosugi, however, has failed to make a definitive statement about the person who he said he had lent the coat, only saying the person “looked like” Hashimoto.

Both Hashimoto and former senior Aum member Kiyohide Hayakawa, whom police believe arranged the murder attempt, have denied the allegations, the sources said.

Hashimoto is appealing a death sentence over the murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family.

The Kunimatsu shooting took place March 30, 1995, eight days after police launched raids on Aum following the fatal sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system.

Kunimatsu was shot and severely injured in front of his home in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, taking three bullets in the abdomen. The gunman fled the scene on a bicycle, police said.

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