Ex-AUM cult member Inoue questioned over Hirata's role in 1995 case

Tokyo, Japan - Police have questioned former AUM Shinrikyo cult member Yoshihiro Inoue, who is on death row, as part of their investigation into a case involving another former leading member who turned himself in to police over the weekend after almost 17 years on the run, investigative sources said Thursday.

Inoue, 42, was questioned on a voluntary basis as the police investigated the role played by Makoto Hirata, 46, in the 1995 abduction of a Tokyo notary office clerk and his subsequent death. Inoue was put in charge of that crime on AUM founder Shoko Asahara's instructions.

Hirata was quoted by the sources as telling the police he was instructed by Inoue to drive a car in the abduction case involving the notary clerk, Kiyoshi Kariya, 68. Meanwhile, he also told his lawyer he did not know about the abduction plan.

The police are expected also to question other convicted former AUM members, the sources said.

Also on Thursday, National Police Agency Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri admitted at a news conference that the police's turning away of Hirata when he first appeared at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department headquarters to turn himself in on Saturday night was "inappropriate."

Hirata later went to a police station nearby in downtown Tokyo.

It was also learned that Hirata was in possession of over 30,000 yen worth of prepaid highway toll cards when he showed up at the police station. The toll card system was abolished in March 2006, but the police are analyzing card records for clues to where and how he had been hiding.

According to court records and other sources, Asahara ordered his followers to abduct Kariya to discover the whereabouts of Kariya's sister who had been in hiding after she tried to leave the cult.

A group of AUM members led by Inoue kidnapped Kariya by car and Hirata allegedly played the role of watchman in another vehicle that followed. He is also believed to have been involved in cleaning up fingerprints and bloodstains in the car that carried Kariya.