Man receives suspended prison term for harboring ex-AUM member

Mainichi, Japan/November 22, 2012

Tokyo - A 41-year-old man was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison, suspended for five years, for harboring a fugitive former member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult that staged the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other fatal crimes.

The defendant, Hiroto Takahashi, "inflicted a great impact on the criminal justice system by harboring the wanted person allegedly involved in serious crimes for five years and three months," Hiroko Kondo, presiding judge at the Tokyo District Court, said.

Takahashi, an interior decorator, gave shelter to Naoko Kikuchi, 40, from March 2007 to June this year in several places in Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures, although he was aware that she was on the wanted list, according to the ruling.

Kondo determined, however, that Takahashi does not deserve to receive an actual prison sentence as he had no connection with AUM and because Kikuchi had already been on the run for around 10 years, using false identities, before he came to know her.

"It cannot be said the defendant played a great role in supporting Kikuchi's life as a fugitive," Kondo said.

In addition to Kikuchi, police earlier this year arrested two other former AUM members who were on the run - Makoto Hirata and Katsuya Takahashi.

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