Tokyo -- Prosecutors on Monday indicted Makoto Hirata, a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, on fresh charges of involvement in a blast at a Tokyo condominium and the throwing of a firebomb into the group's Tokyo headquarters in 1995.
The 46-year-old Hirata, who was also indicted last month on kidnapping and unlawful confinement charges following nearly 17 years on the run, will be the first AUM member to be tried in a lay judge trial.
The prosecutors also told the Tokyo District Court they will pursue a heavier charge against Akemi Saito, 49, a former AUM Shinrikyo follower who has been indicted for sheltering Hirata, in accordance with the fresh charges against Hirata. Saito could face up to 10 years in prison.
The indictment said Hirata conspired with other cult followers to place a timed explosive device at the entrance of the condo and throw a firebomb into the sect's facility on March 19, 1995, just a day before AUM members staged a sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
While no one was injured, the AUM members are believed to have staged the two attacks in a bid to disrupt police investigations into the cult, according to police.
Hirata has denied the charges, but the prosecutors have obtained statements from his accomplices, including 42-year-old Yoshihiro Inoue, who is on death row, to build a case against him.
Hirata turned himself in to Tokyo police on Dec. 31 after remaining on the run for 17 years following the receipt of 10 million yen from a senior group member in 1995.