Japanese court upholds death sentence for Aum doomsday cult member

Asia Pacific News/May 14, 2004

Tokyo -- A Japanese court has upheld the death sentence for a former Aum Supreme Truth cult member over the murder of an anti-sect lawyer and his family.

The Tokyo High Court rejected an appeal by Kiyohide Hayakawa, 54, who built a plant to produce the Nazi-invented Sarin nerve gas at the foot of Mount Fuji.

The Aum cult earned worldwide notoriety in March 1995 by spreading Sarin on the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.

Hayakawa was convicted of strangling Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his 29-year-old wife and baby son in 1989, constructing the Sarin plant and the murder of a cult follower, among other crimes.

The bodies of Sakamoto, an anti-cult campaigner who gave advice to cult deserters, his wife Satoko and one-year-old son were only discovered in September 1995, buried in shallow graves.

Hayakawa was sentenced to hang in July 2000. Hayakawa was convicted of personally throttling Sakamoto's wife as the couple begged the Aum followers not to harm their baby boy.

The defence counsel for Hayakawa had argued his mind had been under the control of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, who was himself sentenced to death in February after a marathon trial.

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