Police increase team in abduction probe

Kyodo News, August 26, 1999

CHIBA, Japan -- Chiba prefectural police on Thursday boosted the size of their team investigating the abduction Tuesday morning near Tokyo of the sister of a victim of the 1994 sarin nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Police are investigating the AUM Shinrikyo cult because the woman's father is a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking damages from the organization, a senior police official said.

The 19-year-old college student abducted was freed in Nagoya, central Japan, 12 hours after she was abducted near her home in the city of Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo.

Given the wider geographical area involved, the police have now increased the number of personnel investigating the case by 30 to 80.

Police said they are looking for anyone who may have seen unknown cars or individuals near the woman's home at around 9 a.m. Tuesday when she was abducted.

The woman's brother was one of seven people killed in the sarin gas attack, in which 144 others were injured.

Fourteen AUM members have been indicted in the case and the woman's father, Kazuyoshi Abe, 57, is one of the plaintiffs seeking damages from the cult's founder Shoko Asahara, 44, and nine members over the death of his son Yuta and other victims.

The abducted woman told police she was told by a man, "If your father doesn't quit the trial, I'll teach you a lesson," investigative sources said. But she said she was not threatened again before her release.

At a news conference Wednesday night, an AUM spokesman denied the group was involved in the case, saying, "Given the situation this religious group now finds itself in, there would be no motive or merit in its obstructing a trial."

The woman was freed at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday behind the Nakamura police station in Nagoya, about 400 kilometers from her home in Narashino.

It takes five to six hours to travel by expressway from Narashino to Nagoya, but up to 12 hours on ordinary roads.

The woman said she was blindfolded in the car's back seat and that her legs and arms were bound with cord, police said.

Early in June she had received silent phone calls, and was threatened June 15 by a young man in an elevator at her college in Tokyo. She had also been followed by unknown people, the investigative sources said.

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