Japan doomsday cult member walks free but convicted over fundraising

Yahoo! News/December 25, 2005

Tokyo (AFP) - A Japanese court has let a senior member of a doomsday cult that attacked the Tokyo subway walk free but found him guilty of selling medical products illegally to raise funds for the sect.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Naruhito Noda, 39, to an 18-month imprisonment suspended for five years.

The Aum Supreme Truth cult was behind the deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.

Noda pleaded not guilty but presiding Judge Hiroshi Narikawa said in his ruling: "The sect again committed crimes systematically, not being able to learn by reflecting on the significant crimes it committed in the past."

Noda was arrested in July last year on suspicion of organising the sale of 2,900 skin cream products without appropriate permits since February 2003 through April last year to some 900 people across the country, Jiji Press said.

The total sales of the skin cream orchestrated by Noda came to 23 million yen (198,000 dollars), the news agency reported.

Prosecutors, who had sought a two-year imprisonment, said in a court statement: "The entire sect was involved in the crime, in which Noda took advantage of his senior position and of sect followers in lower levels."

They accused Noda of "being involved proactively in selling the products despite his clear understanding that the acts violated the pharmaceutical affairs law."

Noda was considered to be one of the closest disciples of the cult's guru Shoko Asahara, who was sentenced to death in February 2004 for crimes including the attack on the Tokyo subway but is appealing the verdict.

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