16-year Aum fugitive mum on life on run

Hirata faces trial in notary killing, disavows cult, says hang guru Kyodo

The Japan Times/January 2, 2012

Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, who turned himself in to police late Saturday after being on the run for more than 16 years in connection with a cult slaying, believes guru Shoko Asahara should hang for his crimes, a lawyer who met Hirata in custody said Monday.

Hirata, 46, has offered no clues as to how he spent his life on the lam and was in possession of several thousand yen when he surrendered.

He also told attorney Taro Takimoto that the 15-year statute of limitations for the 1995 attempted assassination of then National Police Agency head Takaji Kunimatsu had run out and thus he could not be held accountable for that attack, even if he had been considered a suspect.

Hirata was wanted for allegedly conspiring with other cultists in the February 1995 abduction and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya and the lethal injection of a chemical that caused the captive's death that March 1. The statute for those offenses had been put on hold during the trials of Hirata's alleged coconspirators, so he still faces prosecution for those crimes. He has only admitted being a driver during the abduction.

After their meeting, Takimoto told reporters that Hirata, who had been on the wanted list since May 1995, no longer believes in Aum and thinks Asahara, 56, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto and whose death sentence has been finalized, "deserves" the gallows.

Takimoto met with Hirata at the latter's request for about two hours Monday morning at Osaki Police Station in Shinagawa Ward, where he has been kept since his arrest after turning himself in Saturday.

Takimoto, who in 1989 started helping members defect from Aum, missed being killed by cultists who placed sarin on the windshield of his car on May 9, 1994, in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. The following month Aum carried out a deadly sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Takimoto said Hirata told him he wanted to surrender within 2011 and had felt troubled by what transpired in the wake of the March 11 disasters in the Tohoku region.

Hirata went first to the Marunouchi Police Station at 11:50 p.m. Saturday and was identified by fingerprints, the police said.

He was quoted as saying he turned himself in because he wanted closure after being on the run. He was carrying a backpack and had tens of thousands of yen with him, the police said.

Hirata was specifically booked on suspicion of conspiring with Asahara and other cultists to abduct and confine Kariya, a chief clerk at a notary office, and with administering the victim with a lethal dose of chemical.

Hirata had participated in shooting competitions before joining Aum, leading police to also suspect he was involved in the attack on Kunimatsu, who was gunned down outside his home but survived.

Hirata told Takimoto he decided to turn himself in, as he thought there was no longer a chance he could be "wrongfully" arrested for the shooting due to the expiry of the statute of limitations on that crime.

Hirata was one of three cultists still on the run in connection with Aum's heinous crimes, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system. The last trial of those already in custody concluded late last year.

The two other Aum fugitives are Naoko Kikuchi, who would be 40 if still alive, and Katsuya Takahashi, 53. Both are wanted over the subway attack.

Hirata has only admitted to driving the vehicle used in Kariya's abduction, but said during interrogation that he is sorry the notary died, the police said.

Hirata made no statements about where he had been hiding or about Asahara, according to a senior Tokyo police officer.

Asahara and 12 of his disciples have had their death sentences finalized.

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