Former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Naoko Kikuchi said Friday she had no idea that cult superiors had roped her into a plot to build and send a parcel bomb to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in 1995.
Kikuchi, 42, is pleading not guilty to charges of attempted murder. She is accused of willful complicity in the bombing, which severely injured a secretary of then Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima, which took off all the fingers on his left hand.
Kikuchi admitted delivering chemicals to her Aum superiors on at least three occasions, but denied knowing they would be used to make explosives.
Prosecutors say the bombing was part of a carefully formulated plan to murder “socially influential people” and thereby derail police efforts to find and arrest cult leader Shoko Asahara, who went into hiding after the gas attack on the Tokyo subway system three months earlier. That attack, which made headlines worldwide, left 13 dead and sickened thousands.
Kikuchi admitted to using subterfuge in her role as the chemical courier. She said she hid the materials in a box of tissues and gave a false identity when police stopped her.
Prosecutors say her actions show she knew she was doing something illegal. She denies this.
“I only did so because I was told to be careful, because many Aum cult members back then had been arrested by police for no good reason,” she said, adding that the arrests had led to perceptions of persecution.
At the beginning of her questioning Friday, Kikuchi said she feels “truly sorry” the bomb maimed Masaaki Utsumi.
She nonetheless defended her time with the cult and told the court about the time when she lived with fellow members.
At times she even chuckled as she recalled light-hearted moments they enjoyed together.
She said she felt a close affinity to them in part because they would refrain from killing bugs — even mosquitoes and cockroaches.
The cult, meanwhile, aimed to use Kikuchi, a prominent marathon runner, to bring it fame by setting a new world record. She and other athletes would train rigorously, running 40 to 60 km on a daily basis.
“I knew my best record was 40 to 50 minutes slower than the world record at that time, but I believed if I practiced hard enough, I would have a better chance of reaching it.”