Sentence Reduced for Japan Cultist

The Associated Press, Sept. 9, 1999

TOKYO (AP) - A Japanese court on Thursday shaved 12 months off the seven-year jail term given to the wife of a doomsday cult guru accused of plotting the deadly 1995 gas attack on Tokyo's subways.

Tomoko Matsumoto, wife of AUM Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara, was convicted in September of conspiring with her husband and disciples to kill fellow cult member Kotaro Ochida.

She appealed, claiming that although she was present at the slaying, she did not take part.

In reducing her sentence, the Tokyo District Court took into account her apology to Ochida's parents, a court official said. It was not clear if the court accepted her claim that she was not involved.

In January 1994, Ochida and former cult member Hideaki Yasuda tried to rescue Yasuda's sick mother from the cult's commune. The attempt failed, and Asahara told Yasuda to kill Ochida - or be killed himself.

Several cult members held Ochida down, wrapped a rope around his neck and watched Yasuda strangle Ochida to death.

Yasuda was found guilty of murder.

Separately, Asahara and other senior followers have been charged with murder in the March 1995 subway attack that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

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