Supreme Court throws out appeal by former Aum doomsday cult member

Mainichi Shimbun/September 5, 2006

The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeal by a former doomsday cult member sentenced to life for murder and his role in a deadly sarin gas attack, a news report said Tuesday.

The court rejected an appeal filed by Noboru Nakamura against his life sentence, Kyodo News agency reported.

Nakamura was convicted in 2001 of the slaying a fellow member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, abducting and killing the relative of another member, and helping the group build a factory to produce lethal sarin gas.

Nakamura was also found guilty of helping commit murder during the cult's sarin attack in June, 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. That assault, which targeted a dormitory that housed judges handling a cult-related dispute, killed seven people and injured four.

Nakamura said he had only acted as a lookout during the gas attack and did not intend to kill anyone, according to news reports.

The attack preceded a separate 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

Now called Aleph, the Aum cult is under surveillance by Japan's public safety agency, which has warned the organization is still a threat.

Raids of cult headquarters and confessions of leading members later revealed the cult had numerous plots to overthrow the government and operated labs to develop chemical and biological weapons.

Group founder Shoko Asahara, the nearly blind self-styled messiah who once claimed more than 10,000 followers, was convicted and sentenced to die in 2004.

Authorities say about 1,650 people in Japan and 300 in Russia continue to believe in Asahara's teachings.

A court official refused to confirm Tuesday's rejection of Nakamura's appeal because it was after hours. The official declined to give his name.

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