Woman accused of sheltering former-AUM Shinrikyo cult member says he is like family

The Mainichi Daily News, Japan/March 8, 2012

A woman accused of sheltering a former member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult suspected of involvement in a fatal kidnapping and a bombing said at her trial that she thinks of the former cult member as family.

In court on March 6, the woman, Akemi Saito, 49, who is also a former member of the cult, read from a prepared paper: "The crime I should atone for is being a follower of AUM Shinrikyo. I apologize to the victims and to everyone in society."

When questioned about Makoto Hirata, 46, the former cult member she is accused of sheltering, she said, "I think of him as family," and "After his return to society I want to live together with him." She also said during the trial, "I want people who still believe (in AUM's teachings) to think well and look at the truth."

After the court closed, Hirata's lawyer Taro Takimoto said to reporters, "The defendant was just under mind control (when she was a cult member)." He said that Saito donated around eight million yen she had with her when she appeared at a police station to the victims of AUM Shinrikyo crimes.

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