A former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult was released from a central Japan prison Tuesday, having served a nine-year term for his involvement in three cases related to the group, people familiar with the situation said.
Makoto Hirata, 57, turned himself in to police in 2011 after nearly 17 years on the run. In 2014, he was given the nine-year jail term for his involvement in the abduction and confinement of a Tokyo notary clerk as well as the bombing of a condominium and the firebombing of an Aum facility in the capital in 1995.
The sentence was finalized after the Supreme Court rejected Hirata’s appeal in 2016.
The bombing of the condominium and firebombing of the Aum facility in March 1995 — which took place on the eve of the cult’s sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system — were aimed at impeding a police investigation into the religious group.
A 68-year-old notary clerk, Kiyoshi Kariya, died after being abducted and injected with an anesthetic by the group in February 1995. The cult were trying to find out the whereabouts of Kariya’s sister, a former member who had escaped from the cult, and Hirata served as a lookout in the case.
After turning himself in, Hirata sent a number of letters to the family of the victim in which he apologized and criticized the cult, according to Kariya’s eldest son Minoru.
Aum Shinrikyo staged the gas attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, killing 14 and injuring more than 6,000 people.
The doomsday cult’s founder Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the attack, and 12 of his former followers were hanged in 2018.
The cult was later divided into three successor groups that remain active, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency.