Tokyo -- The Tokyo High Court on Friday sentenced a former AUM Shinrikyo member to 17 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in connection with the cult's sarin nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, central Japan, in 1994, upholding a lower court ruling. The court found Takashi Tomita, 43, guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder while standing guard in the attack that killed seven people.
Presiding Judge Kaoru Kanayama said in handing down the ruling that cult founder Shoko Asahara, 46, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had masterminded the massacre and that Tomita had conspired with him.
But the judge decided to give Tomita a fixed prison term rather than the life term prosecutors were seeking, saying Tomita ''was not a senior member of the cult and his role in the attack was subordinate.''
Kanayama ruled that Tomita did not know the gas was sarin, but did know it was deadly and that many people could be injured or die.
On June 27, 1994, AUM members sprayed sarin in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, using a vaporizer and a fan mounted in a vehicle.
Tomita pleaded innocent to the charges. He admitted his presence at the crime scene, but said he did not know the gas was sarin or that it was deadly.
Tomita was also charged with preparing for murder in the construction of a plant to produce sarin in Yamanashi Prefecture.