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Fifteen years have passed since the March 30, 1995, shooting attack on Mr. Takaji Kunimatsu, then head of the National Police Agency, outside his Tokyo home. As the statute of limitations on the case has expired without any indictment, the Metropolitan Police Department’s action on the day that the case ended was illogical.

On March 30, Mr. Goro Aoki, head of the MPD’s public security division, announced that it was an organized and premeditated terrorist attack and that it was carried out by the Aum Shinrikyo cult “under the will” of the cult’s leader, Shoko Asahara, now on death row for ordering the March 20, 1995, sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway system, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.

One wonders whether the MPD’s announcement is legal or appropriate since its investigation failed to lead to the indictment of anyone in the shooting attack. Instead of making such an announcement, the MPD should have fully explained what went wrong with the investigation.

Thinking that Aum Shinrikyo carried out the shooting attack in order to cause a distraction in the MPD’s investigation of the sarin attack, the MPD questioned a former MDP policeman — who was a member of the cult — in April 1996. In May 1996, the former policeman said he had shot Mr. Kunimatsu and, five months later, the MPD searched a river into which he said he had thrown the gun used in the attack. He later changed his statement, saying he was a “supporter” of the main culprit.

In July 2004, after explosive ingredients were found on the overcoat of a man mentioned by the former policeman, the MPD arrested the man, the former policeman and two others. No indictment followed. In and after the fall of 2009, the MDP questioned the former policeman a dozen times, since explosive ingredients had been found on his attache case. It also questioned another man after a bullet of the same type used in the attack was found at his home. This lead, too, went nowhere.

The MPD should have examined whether it followed sound investigative principles, including efforts to corroborate eyewitness accounts and find evidence, and whether investigation leaders issued appropriate instructions.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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