Net kept Aum fugitive Hirata up to date on kin


Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, who surrendered to police on New Year’s Eve after 17 years on the run, said he never left Japan and had Internet access while on the lam and learned of his father’s May 2006 death via a lawyer’s blog, it was learned Wednesday.

Hirata, 46, who turned himself in to Tokyo police, met Monday with the lawyer, Taro Takimoto, who has represented both victims of Aum and cultists trying to defect.

Investigators believe Hirata had access to a personal computer while on the run, although reports so far have only said he was in possession of several thousand yen when he turned himself in and was not carrying a cellphone.

His apparent use of the Internet could help police to uncover details about the long years he spent as a fugitive, investigative sources said. Although Aum engaged in various heinous crimes, the cult also ran businesses, including those that involved the Internet that reportedly turned profits.

Hirata said he had remained in Japan while on the run, but denied having any contact with two other high-profile Aum fugitives — Katsuya Takahashi, who would be 53 if still alive, and Naoko Kikuchi, 40 — according to Takimoto.

Hirata was arrested on suspicion of conspiring with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and other cult members to abduct Kiyoshi Kariya, the chief clerk at a notary office in Tokyo, in February 1995. He was also charged with conspiring to confine Kariya and to inject him with a lethal dose of chemical the following month.