CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions directed by Massimo Introvigne

"Police chief shooting case tied to Japan subway gassing dropped"

Mari Yamaguchi"
(AP, March 30, 2010)

Tokyo, Japan - The investigation into the near-fatal shooting of Japan’s police chief 15 years ago, a high-profile case linked to the religious cult behind a nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway, has been dropped because the statute of limitations has expired, police said Tuesday,
The announcement comes just as the government was preparing to enact a law to scrap the time limit on cold cases, part of a package of reforms aimed at modernizing Japan’s justice system,
National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu was shot three times 10 days after the sarin nerve gas attacks on the city’s subways during rush hour on March 20, 1995, that was eventually blamed on the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult. The five co-ordinated attacks killed 13 people and sickened 6,300 others,
Tokyo police believed the shooting was aimed at thwarting a crackdown on the cult, and had mobilized 480,000 officers to investigate the case. Tokyo police arrested four men linked to the cult in 2004, but prosecutors later decided not to indict them due to a lack of evidence,
Tokyo’s public security chief said he regretted not being able to solve the case before the 15-year statute of limitations on the crime ran out, “We could not bring to justice the culprit in the contemptible terrorist attack,” said Goro Aoki. “It’s truly regrettable.”
But Kunimatsu said police bear a responsibility to provide a fuller explanation of the failure to solve the case, which shook the country’s sense of security at the time it occurred.
“They can’t just say ‘Sorry, time’s up,’ like any other case,” said Kunimatsu, who has since retired and now heads a non-profit organization. “They should seriously reflect upon their failure to investigate deeper and gather enough evidence to pursue criminal charges on the case.”
The Cabinet this month approved a bill to scrap the statute of limitations on capital crimes - which was 15 years at the time of shooting and now stands at 25 years. The measure is awaiting parliament’s approval. The bill is part of a legislative effort to reform Japan’s criminal justice system, which has long been criticized as lacking in transparency and failing to protect the rights of victims - as well as the accused, Aum founder Shoko Asahara, sentenced to hang in 2004, is on death row for masterminding the subway attack. Eleven followers also have been sentenced to death for the subway attack.
In 2000, Aum renamed itself Aleph but remains under close police surveillance.

"Report: Sarin gas attack victims higher"

("UPI," March 11, 2010)

Tokyo, Japan - The number of victims of the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system is higher than originally reported, a police survey indicates, The National Police Agency said Thursday a nationwide survey indicated 6,300 people were affected in the attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, not 5,000 as once estimated, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The tally as of the end of February indicated 6,252 people sustained injuries of varying degrees while the death toll rose from 12 to 13, officials said,
The original 5,000-plus estimate was based on the Tokyo Fire Department's records of taking those affected by the gas to hospitals. The original 12 deaths were cited in court cases and charging documents against Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara and cult members, the news agency said.

"Aum tip preceded attack: Kunimatsu "

("Kyodo News," February 22, 2010)

Tokyo, Japan - A tip that Aum Shinrikyo might try to disrupt plans by police to probe its activities was received shortly before the cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin in 1995, the national police chief at the time revealed in an interview.
The account by former National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu, 72, during a recent interview with a woman who was widowed in the nerve gas attack raises new questions about whether the attack that killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000 could have been prevented.
"We had information that Aum Shinrikyomight possibly take some kind of action because they expected that their headquarters in Yamanashi Prefecturewould be raided on March 22," Kunimatsu told his interviewer, Shizue Takahashi, 63:
But the information was not specific enough to believe Aum would actually carry out the attack, the former police chief said.
Takahashi disagree
d. "It was already known at the time that Aum had sarin. And the police could have imagined that Aum would use the sarin if they had a tip suggesting they may move to distract a police investigation in some way," she said. "We would have wanted them to apologize immediately after the incident" instead of now, she said.
During trials held for key members of the group, many of the cultists said they were told by their guru, Shoko Asahara, to attack the subway system to derail a police plan to crack down on them. Asahara, who was convicted for his role in the attack and in other Aum crimes, remains in an uncommunicative state on death row:
Kunimatsu said the police obtained the information "a few days before" the March 20 attack but refused to identify the source, saying it was difficult for the police to imagine a massive attack or deploy officers just to prevent it: "Dispatching police officers as a preventive measure was not an option. We decided to go ahead with the crackdown on March 22 as scheduled," he said.
Referring to the agony of the commuters hit by the subway attack, Kunimatsu said: "There are no words I can offer them. "A video recording of the interview will be played at a public viewing on March 13, along with interviews with other people involved in the case ahead of the 15th anniversary of the attack.
Kunimatsu, who was the NPA's commissioner general at the time, was shot several times at the entrance to his Tokyo condominium days after police raided Aum after the subway attack.

"Doomsday cult member faces execution"

(AFP, January 19, 2010)

Japan's supreme court has rejected an appeal against the death sentence for a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 deadly sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
The ruling means Tomomitsu Niimi, 45, will be the 10th member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult to face execution after exhausting all legal appeals.
Three other cult members are awaiting verdicts on appeals against their death sentences.
The supreme court upheld the death sentence handed down by two lower courts against Niimi, who was convicted on 11 charges, including the subway attack that killed 12 people and the murders of a lawyer, his wife and their baby.
Niimi, who was involved in the deaths of a total of 26 people, and his lawyers had contended that he simply followed the orders of Aum leader Shoko Asahara in the series of crimes.
Fifteen years after the attack, Niimi still worships Asahara, 54, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, making prayers in his cell.
Asahara too is on death row for the gas attack and other crimes.
The bearded guru was revered as a god by his sect, which preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic visions.
He was obsessed with Nazi-invented sarin gas and paranoid his enemies would attack him with it, Japan usually carries out the death penalty only in cases of multiple homicide.

"Death penalty for cult member"

(AFP, December 10, 2009)

Tokyo - Japan's Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Thursday against the death penalty handed to a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 deadly sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway
The ruling makes Yoshihiro Inoue, 39, the ninth member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult awaiting execution after final rulings by the country's highest court
Among 13 Aum members originally sentenced to death, he was the only defendant whose earlier rulings were divided between a lower court's life sentence and a death sentence given by the Tokyo High Court.
Four sect members are awaiting rulings on appeals against their death sentences. The Supreme Court upheld the high court's verdict on Inoue, deciding that he 'played an essential and significant role on his initiative' in the 1995 sarin attack, said presiding judge Seishi Kanetsuki
According to the ruling of the high court, Inoue plotted the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands, with Aum Supreme Truth sect leader Shoko Asahara. The court also ruled he kidnapped and murdered Kiyoshi Kariya, then 68, who tried to shelter his sister after she escaped from the sect
The bearded guru was revered as a god by his sect, which preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic visions. He was obsessed with Nazi-invented sarin gas and paranoid his enemies would attack him with it.

Back to the CESNUR Page on Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies