Police to question Aum founder / Former cultists: Hirata present at meetings about notary's abduction

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan/January 10, 2012

Police plan to question Chizuo Matsumoto, founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, regarding former Aum member Makoto Hirata's statement that he was unaware of plans to abduct a Tokyo notary public, it has been learned.

It is not clear whether Matsumoto, 56, also known as Shoko Asahara, will respond to questioning as no one has been able to understand him in over a decade.

Hirata, 46, was arrested Jan. 1 by the Metropolitan Police Department after turning himself in to the police on Dec. 31. He had been on the run for nearly 17 years.

Police suspect Hirata conspired to abduct and confine Kiyoshi Kariya, chief clerk at a notary office in Tokyo, and inject him with a chemical that caused his death in 1995.

However, Hirata told police that he just drove the car used in the crime and did not know about the abduction until he saw Kariya brought into the car by other Aum members.

Guilty sentences for nine former Aum members have been finalized in the Kariya case, including three on death row: Matsumoto, Yoshihiro Inoue, 42, and Tomomasa Nakagawa, 49.

On Wednesday, the police began questioning Inoue and other former members over Hirata's involvement in the case.

Some former senior Aum members have told investigators that Hirata attended planning meetings and must have therefore known about the abduction, contradicting Hirata's statement to the police.

During his time as an Aum member, Hirata also acted as a bodyguard for Matsumoto.

The police therefore decided it is necessary to hear from Matsumoto regarding Hirata's role in the case as he was the chief mastermind behind the crime.

Matsumoto stopped talking during his trial after making a final public statement in court in January 1998, saying, "The presiding judge found me totally innocent."

Matsumoto has not made sense, even in meetings with his lawyers, since the first court ruling in 2004 in his trial for various crimes.

However, experts say he does not suffer from any serious mental or psychological problems.

Police release Hirata photos

The police have released four photos of Hirata taken by security cameras at JR Shin-Osaka Station before he turned himself in to the police on Dec. 31.

The photos released Sunday show Hirata near a Shinkansen ticket gate and on an escalator going up to a Shinkansen platform. He was seen wearing a black down jacket, knit cap, mask and earphones.

When he reported to Tokyo's Marunouchi Police Station, however, Hirata was not wearing the cap or mask.

Police believe he threw them away on his way to the police station.

The Metropolitan Police Department has received many witness reports about Hirata since his Jan. 1 arrest.

Several people in Fujiidera City, Osaka Prefecture, reported to police they had sighted a similar-looking man.

Tokyo police have dispatched investigators to the city to trace Hirata's travel route.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.