Death sentences fixed for 1995 sarin attackers
Mainichi Daily News, Japan
November 7, 2009
Death sentences fixed for 2 ex-AUM Shinrikyo members involved in 1995 sarin attack
Appeals by two former members of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult who perpetrated the 1995 deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway system have been dismissed by the Supreme Court, leaving their death sentences fixed.
The Second Petty Bench of the top court rejected appeals filed by former senior members Toru Toyota, 41, and Kenichi Hirose, 45, who were convicted of murder over the gas attack in March 1995 that killed 12.
"It was an indiscriminate mass murder committed systematically for the purpose of defending the cult as an organization. The consequences were extremely grave," said the top court in handing down the decision on Friday.
The ruling drew the curtains on a series of trials on the perpetrators of the subway attack, including Masato Yokoyama, 46, Yasuo Hayashi, 51, both death row inmates, and Ikuo Hayashi, 62, who was given a life term. In total, there are eight former AUM Shinrikyo members whose death sentences have been confirmed over the subway attack and a string of other incidents linked to the doomsday cult.
According to the ruling, Toyota and Hirose used umbrellas to stab holes in plastic bags containing the nerve agent sarin and left them inside trains on the Hibiya and Marunouchi Lines, killing one passenger in each.
The defense counsel for the two defendants requested that they be spared death sentences, arguing that they were under the influence of brainwashing by then cult guru Chizuo Matsumoto, 54, who has also been sentenced to death. However, the Supreme Court rejected the plea, saying: "The death penalty is unavoidable even in consideration of the fact that the defendants committed the crime at the instruction of senior cult members and that they regret their actions."
Five other defendants linked to the cult -- Yoshihiro Inoue, 39, Masami Tsuchiya, 44, Tomomitsu Niimi, 45, Tomomasa Nakagawa, 47, and Seiichi Endo. 49 -- are awaiting a top court decision after appealing their death sentences by lower courts over a spate of cult-related incidents. Niimi and Inoue face their appeal hearings later this month.
Following Friday's ruling, victims of the subway gas attack and the bereaved families of those who died in the incident expressed mixed emotions over the court decision.
Kazuo Asakawa, 49, whose 46-year-old sister was left seriously disabled after the attack, said it was good that both he and his sister could sit in on the hearing. However, he said, "If my child was given the same sentence, I would be sad. (The death sentence) wouldn't make me forgive them, either. I have mixed feelings."
Shizue Takahashi, 62, whose husband died in the incident while serving as assistant stationmaster at Kasumigaseki Station, said, "Although the two defendants served in court far better than (Chizuo) Matsumoto, the sentences were unavoidable." However, she revealed that she was also conflicted as Hirose's mother was also sitting in on the hearing and that they were given the same sentence as Matsumoto, the mastermind of the subway attack.
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