The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has concluded that the 1995 shooting of then National Police Agency (NPA) chief Takaji Kunimatsu was a terrorist attack carried out by the AUM Shinrikyo cult, an MPD official said Tuesday.
"We've recognized that the shooting was a terrorist attack that a group of AUM Shinrikyo followers planned and launched at the instruction of Chizuo Matsumoto (cult founder Shoko Asahara)," said Goro Aoki, head of the MPD's Public Security Bureau.
He made the remarks at a news conference on Tuesday, when the 15-year statute of limitations for the case ran out.
Aoki expressed regret over the MPD's failure to apprehend those involved. "It's indeed regrettable that the statute of limitations has run out without bringing the culprits to justice."
It is the first time for Tokyo police to release a comment on a crime case for which the statute of limitations has run out.
In the 16-page statement distributed to reporters at a news conference, the MPD listed eight people, including high-ranking members of the cult, as suspects, and commented on the results of the investigations.
However, the report contains numerous vague phrases, such as "there is a high possibility that ..." and "It is assumed that ...," prompting a number of reporters to ask if it could infringe on the human rights of those listed as suspects.
"Doesn't it constitute a human rights violation to list cult members as culprits without clear foundations?" one of them said.
In response, Aoki justified the practice from the viewpoint of public good.
"We deemed it necessary to provide an explanation of the investigations in which 480,000 investigators were mobilized over the past 15 years," he said. "It's important to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy. We paid due attention to the human rights of those concerned, and decided to disclose the comments from the viewpoint of public good."
Aoki countered criticism that the MPD investigated the case on the assumption that AUM Shinrikyo was behind the attack. "We're confident that the investigations were not conducted based on any presumptions."
The summary of the investigation results will be put up on the MPD Web site over a one-month period from Wednesday.