Wakayama - Former AUM Shinrikyo cult member Hisako Ishii was freed early Saturday morning after serving a prison term for having incinerated the body of a follower who died during religious training.
Ishii, 40, former head of the cult's self-styled "finance ministry," left Wakayama Prison for Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture by taxi. At the airport, she delivered to reporters a hand-written statement that read: "I cannot avoid responsibility for the crimes committed by AUM Shinrikyo. I offer an apology to the victims."
Law enforcement authorities will pay close attention to Ishii's future moves even though they believe she is unlikely to return to the cult.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Ishii to three years and eight months in prison in February 1999 for damaging a corpse, harboring a criminal and destroying evidence. However, she was released Saturday because her prison term included the period she had been in detention prior to the court handing down the decision.
According to the ruling, Ishii gave 35 million yen in cash and an automobile to several cultists shortly after the cult launched a sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway trains on March 20, 1995, to help them escape from police, the ruling said. The subway gassing left 12 people dead and thousands of others ill.
In June 1993, she incinerated the body of an AUM follower who died while undergoing religious training at a cult complex in Shizuoka Prefecture.
She also destroyed evidence of the cult's unlawful purchase of land in Kumamoto Prefecture by submitting a false document to local prosecutors in October 1990. Ishii did not appeal the ruling handed down by the district court.
During a court hearing in May 1997, Ishii declared that she would break with the cult saying that AUM's principles were wrong and that cult founder Shoko Asahara had made mistakes.
Asahara and other cult members are under indictment in connection with numerous crimes allegedly committed by the cult, including the subway gassing.