Supreme Court upholds cult AUM Shinrikyo members' death sentences

China View/November 6, 2009

Tokyo - Two former members of the cult AUM Shinrikyo, Toru Toyoda (41) and Kenichi Hirose (45), had their death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday for their involvement in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and hospitalized thousands.

The Supreme Court rejected appeals made by Toyoda and Hirose against their sentences delivered by the Tokyo High Court in 2004 and Friday's decision is expected to be final, meaning the total number of AUM Shinrikyo members sentenced to death has now risen to eight.

Presiding judge Justice Yukio Takeuchi said Friday that the sarin attack on the subway system in 1995 constituted "organized and premeditated acts of indiscriminate mass murder" and that the crime was "extremely cruel and inhumane." The death penalty is inevitable for the two men even though they committed the crime under instructions from higher cult members, the justice concluded.

Toyoda and Hirose were among five cult members who released nerve gas on Tokyo's subway system on 20 March 1995 -- specifically Toyoda and Hirose are charged with carrying the sarin into the trains on the Hibiya and Marunouchi lines in plastic bags, which they then punctured with umbrellas, dispersing the gas on crowded subway trains in an act officials described as "indiscriminate terrorism."

Both Toyoda and Hirose had sought lighter penalties, arguing they were victims of the cult's leader Chizuo Matsumoto, better known by his cult designation, Shoko Asahara's mind control.

In addition to the gassing, Toyoda has been charged with attempting to kill former Tokyo Governor Yukio Aoshima in May 1995by mailing a parcel bomb to his office. The package exploded when Aoshima's secretary opened it, blowing off all his fingers on one hand.

Between 1994 and 1995, Toyoda, Hirose and Asahara also allegedly planned to manufacture 1,000 automatic rifles modeled on the Russian-made AK-47, but succeeded in producing only one.

AUM Shinrikyo renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 and in 2007 a senior AUM disciple and his followers left Aleph to launch a splinter group called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light).

Crimes committed by AUM Shinrikyo and at the behest of Asahara also include the killing a Yokohama- based anti-AUM lawyer, his wife and their son in 1989, as well as another gas attack in a residential area of Nagano Prefecture in 1994 that killed eight people and seriously injured hundreds of residents in the area.

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