Minoru Kariya, whose father was believed tortured to death by Aum Shinrikyo in 1995, asked ex-cult fugitive Makoto Hirata on Friday why his father had to die and whether the defendant is prepared to atone for the role he played in his death.

Kariya, sitting with the prosecutors, has attended most of the trial sessions under a new system that allows victims to question defendants first-hand. Friday’s session marked the first time since the system was adopted in 2008 that a victim of Aum has quizzed one of the cultists.

Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, died after being kidnapped by the cult and drugged with a fatal amount of anesthetic used to force him to divulge the whereabouts of his wealthy sister, who had fled the cult. His body was later incinerated and his ashes dumped into a nearby lake, cultists testified earlier.

Hirata stands accused of participating in the notary’s abduction. He has pleaded not guilty and said he had no prior knowledge of the scheme.

Kariya pressed Hirata for details on his father’s death.

Kariya’s death is being treated as manslaughter by the courts, a fact that has frustrated the younger Kariya for years. On Friday, he repeatedly dogged Hirata for details on what happened.

Hirata apologetically repeated that he didn’t know how his father died and maintained that he only participated in the kidnapping.

Hirata and Kariya reached an out-of-court settlement over the issue last year on condition that Hirata pay Kariya’s family ¥4 million in compensation and an extra ¥50,000 per month over 10 years once out of prison. Kariya has struck similar deals with two other cultists, but both reneged and stopped paying the family halfway through.

“I’ll consider my payment a symbol of my heartfelt apology, and by continuing to compensate I’d like to stay in touch with your family, however remotely,” Hirata said.

Sitting in front of the witness stand, Kariya bitterly recalled the days he spent trying in vain to swallow the news of his father’s demise.

“(After we learned of his death), we went to the lake and picked up some stones . . . assuming his ashes would still be on their surfaces . . . We brought them home and put them into a vase along with his death certificate and glasses,” Kariya said tearfully.

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