Japan Doomsday Cult Leader's Wife Loses Appeal

Reuters/June 26, 2001

Tokyo -- Japan's highest court said on Tuesday it had rejected an appeal by the wife of a doomsday cult leader charged with masterminding the fatal 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway, upholding her six-year term for another crime.

An official said the Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by Tomoko Matsumoto, 42, convicted of conspiring with her husband Shoko Asahara and other Aum Supreme Truth members to kill a fellow member who tried to leave the cult. Officials declined to comment further on the ruling, which upheld a jail sentence handed down by the Tokyo High Court in 1999.

Cult members have testified that 29-year-old Kotaro Ochida was strangled on Asahara's orders in the presence of Matsumoto and other cult members on February 1, 1994, at Aum's headquarters near Mount Fuji. Matsumoto admitted to being present at the murder but denied conspiring with other cult members to kill Ochida.

Matsumoto said she was in the room when the strangling took place and felt ``unbearable shame,'' but could not resist because she was suffering from a breakdown in her relationship with Asahara due to his sexual liaisons with other female cult members and physical abuse. During her first trial, defense lawyers portrayed Matsumoto as a gullible teenager who fell in love with the older Asahara out of pity due to his poor eyesight.

They married in January 1978, when she was only 18. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is facing a total of 17 charges for masterminding the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack that killed 12 people and made 6,000 ill. His Aum cult preached that the world was coming to an end and that members needed to prepare for the approaching Armageddon.

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