Top Court Rejects Key AUM Member's Appeal Against Prison Term

Kyodo News Service/July 21, 2006

Tokyo (Kyodo) -- The Supreme Court has decided to reject an appeal filed by Shinichi Koshikawa, a former key member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder and other charges, judicial sources said Friday.

The decision, dated Thursday, will leave the number of defendants still standing trial over crimes involving AUM at 14 but all of them have been given death or life sentences by district or high courts, including Shoko Asahara, 51, who founded the cult.

Koshikawa, 41, has consistently pleaded not guilty to three charges against him, including the murder of AUM follower Kotaro Ochida, and appealed a Tokyo High Court ruling of March 3, 2004 that upheld a Tokyo District Court ruling of March 25, 2002.

According to court rulings, Koshikawa conspired with Asahara and strangled Ochida, then 29, in January 1994 after Ochida entered the cult's facility in Yamanashi Prefecture in order to help a sick female cult member.

Koshikawa also threatened a former cult member in Tokushima Prefecture in January 1995 to prevent the person from leaving the cult and hit a police officer's chest the following April in Tokyo when he was questioned, the rulings said.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was charged with 13 criminal cases including two deadly sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture in 1994 and was sentenced to death at the Tokyo District Court in February 2004.

AUM has renamed itself Aleph.

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