Ex-AUM member gets 18 years for terrorism


Mainichi Shimbun, July 23, 1999

A former elite member of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult copped an 18-year jail term on Thursday for executing terrorist acts, including poison gas and parcel bomb attacks.

According to the rulings read out at the Tokyo District Court, Masahiro Tominaga, 30, a doctor and University of Tokyo graduate, sprayed deadly sarin gas on a car that belonged to anti-AUM lawyer Taro Takimoto. The lawyer was targeted for the May 1994 gassing, a botched attempt to kill him, because he helped AUM followers trying to leave the cult.

Then, in May 1995, Tominaga posted a parcel bomb addressed to then Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima. A metropolitan government official lost all the fingers off his left hand when the bomb exploded while he was opening the parcel.

Tominaga also planted a timing device to discharge cyanide gas in a toilet in Tokyo's Shinjuku Station in the same month.

Station officials found the device before it was activated and foiled the gas attack.

Presiding Judge Takao Nakayama said there was "no room for leniency" for Tominaga's part in an "extremely wicked" series of organized crimes and sentenced him to 18 years in prison.

Prosecutors had demanded a 20-year jail term.

Tominaga's defense lawyers argued that his mind was controlled by cult founder and guru Chizuo Matsumoto, better known as Shoko Asahara, and had no sense of responsibility at the time of those attacks.

Judge Nakayama recognized that Matsumoto ordered the attacks, but didn't buy

"[Tominaga was] fully aware of his illegal actions, but he put priority on following the cult's dogma and its guru's orders," Nakayama said.

Matsumoto was quoted as telling his followers to use "magic" when he ordered the gassing of Takimoto's car.

Tominaga joined the doomsday cult in 1992 as a lay member while he was studying at the medical faculty of the prestigious University of Tokyo.

He was in charge of recruiting students to the cult.

Tominaga went on to work at a hospital attached to the university, but quit after six months to devote his life to the cult.

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