The Asahara Trial: Guru speaks, blames cultists for attack

Japan Times, Sept 22, 1999

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara on Wednesday blamed senior cultists for the deadly March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, saying he never discussed it with anyone.

Testifying before the Tokyo District Court, Asahara said Yoshihiro Inoue, the cult's former intelligence chief, must have devised the plan for the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands, and discussed it with the late senior cultist Hideo Murai.

This is the first time in months that Asahara, 44, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has spoken coherently in court.

During a hearing for former cultists Toru Toyoda, 31, and Shigeo Sugimoto, 40, the guru also said he had no knowledge of what was produced at the Satyam No. 7 complex, a cult lab in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, where the gas and other deadly chemicals were prepared.

"Leaders spoke freely and my authority had been weakened," Asahara said. "Although (Aum) is aimed at emancipating its members from all worldly desires and worries, everyone was going the wrong way."

He claimed his innocence in a spate of crimes allegedly committed by the cult, but later mumbled in what sounded like English then began babbling incoherently.

In four prior opportunities to testify in the hearings of former cult members, Asahara was ordered to leave the courtroom after refusing to take an oath.

In Wednesday's session, Asahara, who claims to have visual disabilities, wrote an oath on a blank sheet of paper prior to taking the stand.

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