Cultist gets 18 years for multiple murder attempts

Japan Times, July 22, 1999

Senior Aum Shinrikyo figure Masahiro Tominaga was sentenced to 18 years in prison Thursday for trying to kill an anticult lawyer with sarin gas in 1994, sending an injurious letter bomb to Tokyo's governor and planting cyanide gas in Shinjuku Station.

Although Tominaga, 30, a former doctor who was once part of Aum's so-called household agency, owned up to the charges in June 1996 during his first trial hearing, he insisted he should not be held liable because his mind was under the control of cult founder Shoko Asahara and he was unable to judge right from wrong.

But Judge Takao Nakayama of the Tokyo District Court dismissed this argument, saying Tominaga had intended to kill and was able to judge his actions.

Nakayama said Tominaga's bears great criminal liability for committing "self-righteous crimes" and "nasty terrorism," noting Aum members did not have the slightest bit of dignity as people of religion.

According to the court, Asahara ordered Tominaga and four other cultists to kill attorney Taro Takimoto, who was supporting former cult members who wanted to return to society and their families, fearing the lawyer was an obstacle to the doomsday cult.

They put the nerve gas on the windshield of Takimoto's car on May 9, 1994, in a parking lot of the Kofu District Court in Yamanashi Prefecture, the court said. Takimoto came down with minor symptoms of sarin poisoning, but recovered.

Tominaga also sent a bomb in a brown envelope to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office in an attempt to kill then Gov. Yukio Aoshima.

The bomb seriously injured Aoshima's secretary, blowing off most of the fingers on his left hand when he opened the letter on May 16, 1995.

The court also said Tominaga and four other Aum members placed bags of cyanide gas in a men's bathroom at the Shinjuku Station stop on the Marunouchi Line on May 5, 1995, in a bid to distract police from their investigation of Asahara, who is now on trial for several heinous crimes but has yet to be convicted of any of them.

A passerby reported the bags to station workers, who disposed of them without any injuries.

Once a staff doctor at Tokyo University Hospital, Tominaga started to work as a close aid to Asahara soon after becoming a resident follower. He was arrested in October 1995 after surrendering to police.

Prosecutors asked for a 20-year sentence in February, saying the crimes Tominaga perpetrated were "extremely selfish," putting the interest of the cult higher than human lives.

Tominaga's defense team said they would consult with their client on whether to appeal to a higher court.

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