A former Aum Shinrikyo member testified in court Friday that cult founder Shoko Asahara ordered him in 1994 to manufacture 1,000 machineguns. Kenichi Hirose was speaking at Asahara's 164th trial session at the Tokyo District Court, during which the cult's alleged manufacture of firearms was brought up for the first time.
Hirose, who is being separately tried on the gun-manufacturing charge, said Asahara ordered him and Masato Yokoyama, a senior member of the cult who was sentenced to death in October, to produce 1,000 machineguns in February 1994.
"I was not surprised when I received the order, because I myself thought the weapons were necessary to fulfill (Aum's) doctrine," said Hirose, citing the cult's teaching that it is better for those who do not respect the cult to be killed.
Prior to giving the order, Asahara sent Hirose and four other cult members to Russia in February 1993 to study how to make the Russian Army's AK-74 as well as to purchase parts for the weapon, he said.
After numerous attempts, Hirose and Yokoyama finally built a prototype machinegun -- an imitation AK-74 -- by Jan. 1, 1995. Asahara, who, the cultist said, looked impressed with the gun, then ordered Hirose to make bullets for it, while asking Yokoyama to make bigger weapons, he said. The machinegun, confiscated by police from Aum's facility in Yamanashi Prefecture in May 1995, is believed to be crude and useless.
The district court is scheduled to hand down its rulings Monday on Hirose and two other former cultists involved in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Prosecutors have demanded capital punishment for his alleged releasing of sarin gas in the attack.
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