Doomsday cult member faces execution

ABC News, Australia/January 19, 2010

Japan's supreme court has rejected an appeal against the death sentence for a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 deadly sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

The ruling means Tomomitsu Niimi, 45, will be the 10th member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult to face execution after exhausting all legal appeals.

Three other cult members are awaiting verdicts on appeals against their death sentences.

The supreme court upheld the death sentence handed down by two lower courts against Niimi, who was convicted on 11 charges, including the subway attack that killed 12 people and the murders of a lawyer, his wife and their baby.

Niimi, who was involved in the deaths of a total of 26 people, and his lawyers had contended that he simply followed the orders of Aum leader Shoko Asahara in the series of crimes.

Fifteen years after the attack, Niimi still worships Asahara, 54, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, making prayers in his cell.

Asahara too is on death row for the gas attack and other crimes.

The bearded guru was revered as a god by his sect, which preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic visions.

He was obsessed with Nazi-invented sarin gas and paranoid his enemies would attack him with it.

Japan usually carries out the death penalty only in cases of multiple homicide.

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