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2013年1月18日 (金)

オウム断定敗訴 公安警察の暴走に強い警告

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 18, 2013)
Aleph defamation ruling a warning to police
オウム断定敗訴 公安警察の暴走に強い警告(1月17日付・読売社説)

The Tokyo District Court has given a strong rebuke to police authorities over their insistence that Aum cult members were behind the 1995 shooting of Japan's top police chief, even though there was not enough evidence to establish a case against them.

The court acknowledged Wednesday that the Metropolitan Police Department's announcement on its investigations into the gun attack on the National Police Agency commissioner general defamed Aleph--the new name part of the Aum Supreme Truth cult adopted--and ordered the Tokyo metropolitan government to pay 1 million yen in compensation to the religious group.

In an unusual step, the court also ordered the Tokyo government to submit a written apology to Aleph.

The ruling harshly criticized the MPD, describing its announcement as a "grave illegality that runs counter to the principle of presumption of innocence."

The MPD must take the ruling to heart.


Evidence lacking

The announcement in question was made by the head of the public security section at a press conference on March 30, 2010, when the statute of limitations on the case of the shooting of then Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu had expired. Kunimatsu was seriously injured in the attack.

The section chief said the MPD's investigation had determined the incident was an organized and planned terrorist attack by eight Aum members--including two senior members of the cult and an MPD officer who was an Aum member at the time of the shooting--under the control of Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, better known as Shoko Asahara. Matsumoto is now on death row.

The three were arrested by the public security section, but they were not indicted by prosecutors because they found that the suspects' statements lacked credibility.

Despite these developments, the MPD's public security section determined--even without hard evidence--that Aum members had committed the shooting. Prosecutors should present a case in a trial, and it is up to courts to decide whether a defendant is guilty. The MPD's announcement strayed far from accepted criminal court procedures.

The incident also suggests that public safety police officers, who must catch members of terrorist organizations, extremists and spies, employ coercive methods in their investigations.

It is reasonable that the court ruled that this incident "shook the basic principles of the criminal justice system to the core."


Who knew what?

The public security section faced many difficulties while investigating Kunimatsu's shooting. On the other hand, other serious incidents in which the criminal investigation section played the leading investigative role--including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and the 1990 murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family--have been proven to be acts committed by Aum.

We wonder if the public security section was more concerned about saving its own face when it went ahead with the announcement, even though other MPD officials and prosecutors opposed it.

A close watch should be kept over Aleph, since some of its facilities still display Matsumoto's portrait. The group has been put under surveillance based on the Subversive Organizations Control Law. The order to pay compensation from public funds and apologize to such an organization is a huge black eye for the police. It will not be easy for the police--which have been hit by a series of scandals--to restore people's trust in the force.

Why could the head of the public safety section not be dissuaded from making the announcement? How much did top officials at the MPD and the NPA know about what he would announce? Thorough reviews will have to be made to prevent a recurrence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2013)
(2013年1月17日00時34分  読売新聞)


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