The Asahara Trial: Cultist says he hoped for post-attack probe

Japan Times/March 27, 1997

A senior Aum Shinrikyo follower testified March 26 that he had hoped police would launch a full-scale investigation into the cult after the 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, because he believed a probe would have kept the cult from committing further crimes.

Testifying for the prosecution in the trial of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, Yasuo Hayashi, 40, who is also on trial for his alleged role in the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attack, the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto and the foiled cyanide gas attack at Tokyo's Shinjuku Station in May 1995, said he was unable to rebel against the cult.

Asahara, who has been charged in connection with 17 cases, stands accused of conspiring with other senior Aum members to release sarin on the subway system in an alleged attempt to disturb an anticipated full-scale police investigation into the cult. He also stands accused of masterminding the 1994 gas attack, as well as other heinous crimes.

In earlier testimony, Hayashi said he participated in the subway attack out of fear that he would be punished if he disobeyed orders, which he believed came from Asahara.

In a soft voice that contrasted greatly with the widely reported image of a fearless fugitive before his arrest in December 1996, Hayashi told the court he was troubled by some of the cult's shady activities, such as producing sarin and automatic rifles, but said he was unable to rebel.

He also said he had doubts about the cult's claim around March 1994 that Aum had been attacked with poison gas. Asahara and his family temporarily left the cult's facilities in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, to protect themselves from the poison gas, he said. "I thought it was strange that only the Aum facilities were suffering a poison gas attack, while the neighbors were not. Also, I thought Asahara was mean to run away only with his family and leave his followers, " he said.

Asahara's lawyers asked Hayashi why he stayed at Aum and carried out the subway attack despite his mounting apprehension about the cult. "Even if Asahara was crazy, I still had my faith in Buddhism," Hayashi said. When rumors lingered in summer 1994 that the police would probe Aum over several alleged crimes, Hayashi said he had thought a police investigation would stop Aum from doing further "stupid things."

"I hoped the probe would help Aum go back to being a purely religious group, as it was in December 1988 when I became a resident follower," he testified.


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