TOKYO: The trial began in Japan on Thursday of a former member of Aum Supreme Truth, 19 years after the doomsday cult launched a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people.

    Makoto Hirata, 48, turned himself in at a police station two years ago after spending much of the last two decades on the run.

    He was one of the final fugitives who went into hiding after the rush-hour release of sarin in March 1995, an episode that sickened thousands and sowed panic among Tokyo’s millions of commuters.

    The trial, which is expected to last around two months, is being closely followed in Japan, not least because three senior Aum figures who are already on death row are expected to testify, raising hopes they may provide insight into a crime that continues to baffle the country.

    Although Hirata is not charged in connection with the subway attack, he is being tried over his alleged role in the kidnapping of a 68-year-old man who had sheltered his sister after she escaped from the cult.

    The victim was taken to Aum’s main commune at the foot of Mount Fuji and died the next day from what has been described as tracheal obstruction after being given an injection.



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