Alleged Aum driver faces life for role in subway gassing

Japan Times, Sept 22, 1999

Prosecutors demanded a life sentence Wednesday for former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Kiyotaka Tonozaki, who is charged with driving a getaway car for one of the cultists accused of releasing sarin in the March 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attack.

In a statement read before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Tonozaki, 35, played an active and indispensable role in the indiscriminate murder of 12 people and the injury of thousands more in the subway attack because of his belief in the cult's self-righteous doctrine, and thus should be sentenced to life.

During Wednesday's session, prosecutors said Tonozaki showed no sign of regret for his participation in one of the nation's worst terrorist attacks. The defendant nervously listened to their three-hour statement.

Tonozaki also stands accused of harboring senior Aum member Takeshi Matsumoto, who was wanted by Tokyo police on suspicion of abducting Meguro Ward notary public Kiyoshi Kariya in February 1995. Cultists allegedly killed Kariya at a cult facility.

In his second trial hearing in January 1996, Tonozaki admitted driving cultist Masato Yokoyama to Shinjuku Station on the morning of March 20, 1995. In the hearing, however, Tonozaki denied conspiring in the massacre, claiming he was unaware of the dangers of sarin and noting he only learned the cultists were releasing it on that day.

Prosecutors said that after Tonozaki dropped Yokoyama off at the station, Yokoyama boarded a Marunouchi Line subway train bound for Ikebukuro and released the sarin on the train near Yotsuya Station, severely injuring four passengers.

Tonozaki then picked Yokoyama up from Yotsuya Station and returned to their facility in Shibuya, they said.

Prosecutors claimed Wednesday that Tonozaki was well aware of sarin's danger and that the cult planned to release it on the train, based on circumstantial evidence as well as Tonozaki's confession to police. In court, he claimed his confession was coerced through police violence.

Prosecutors in June demanded life imprisonment for Yokoyama. The ruling is scheduled Sept. 30.

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