Asahara's wife gets 6-year prison term at high court

Kyodo News, September 9, 1999
By Elaine Lies

TOKYO -- The Tokyo High Court sentenced the wife of AUM Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara to six years in prison for conspiring with her husband and cult members in the 1994 murder of a dissident AUM member.

The high court's ruling shortened by one year the Tokyo District Court's May 1998 ruling, which sentenced Tomoko Matsumoto, 41, to seven years in jail for the murder of Kotaro Ochida, then 29, at an AUM facility in the village of Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, in January 1994.

According to the ruling, Matsumoto conspired with Asahara and the other cult members to strangle Ochida with a rope after he had broken into the cult facility to rescue an AUM member's mother being confined there.

In handing down his ruling, Presiding Judge Tadaharu Kanda said, "It is clear Tomoko and the others conspired to murder Ochida," rejecting the claim of Matsumoto's counsel that Matsumoto was not guilty as there was no murder conspiracy and that Matsumoto was only present at the murder scene.

Following the handing down of the ruling, Matsumoto's lawyer said, "Our claim was not understood, so we are considering an appeal."

Kanda said, "The first ruling is somewhat heavy at this stage," taking into consideration factors since the lower court ruling such as Matsumoto's apology to Ochida's family, reaching a settlement of paying them 20 million yen and for donating 20 million yen to a fund to support victims of the March 1995 Tokyo subway gassing.

Although Matsumoto was not directly involved in the actual murder, she consented to Asahara's order to kill Ochida, according to the ruling.

During the appeal, Matsumoto expressed her intention to divorce Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, saying, "I will not be involved with the cult from now on. I want to live quietly with my children."

Asahara, 44, has been indicted on 17 cases, including the March 1995 Tokyo subway attack that killed 12 people and injured thousands.

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