Aum cult guru breaks silence

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The Independent Online
RICHARD LLOYD PARRY

Tokyo

Shoko Asahara, the Japanese cult leader charged with ordering the Tokyo sarin gas attack, was reported to have broken his silence last night and to have admitted for the first time witnessing one of many murders believed to have been carried out by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult.

Since his arrest on 16 May he has refused to respond to questions about the nerve gas attack which killed a dozen people and poisoned 5,500 others three months ago. But according to Japanese newspapers quoting anonymous police sources, the guru recently confessed he was present when a cult member was murdered in the sect's commune in Kamiku Isshiki village near Mount Fuji.

Mr Asahara, who already faces charges of murder and attempted murder for the subway killings, was also charged this week with the death of 29-year-old Kotaro Ochida, a member of Aum's pharmacy section.

Ochida is believed to have died early last year after attempting to leave the cult with a fellow member, Hideo Yasuda. It was thought he was handcuffed and strangled with rope. His body is said to have been disposed of in a microwave crematorium on cult property. According to arrested cult members, Mr Yasuda, who is now in custody, was ordered to kill his friend in return for his own life.

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