The wife of Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto was sentenced to seven years in prison this morning on charges she ordered the slaying of a cult follower.
The Tokyo District Court ruled that Tomoko Matsumoto, 39, was responsible for the strangulation death of Kotaro Ochida, a pharmacist who had tried to escape from a cult facility with a female follower in January 1994.
Presiding Judge Atsushi Senba said that as wife of the cult founder, Matsumoto held a very senior position and should have tried to stop the violence committed by her husband and other senior Aum lieutenants.
On the contrary, Senba said she not only showed no resistance, but actively supported the crime by making statements justifying the slaying.
Hideaki Yasuda, 30, a son of a former female follower who committed the actual crime, has received a three-year sentence with a suspension.
Attorneys for Matsumoto claimed in the past hearings that she was not in a position to order Ochida's slaying and instead was forced to watch the grisly act.
They said Matsumoto should be viewed as a victim of the cult and her husband. During the two and a half years she has been on trial, Matsumoto started to portray herself as a victim--often shedding tears--as other followers testified about the slaying.
Matsumoto insisted she suffered a nervous breakdown after learning her husband was having an affair with Hisako Ishii, the cult's "finance minister" who had a great power.
She said she was repeatedly confined in a small cell or paddled on the buttocks as punishment.
During the trial, Matsumoto revealed that in the summer of 1988 she confided in a former high school classmate she could no longer tolerate her husband.
At that time, the cult established a "general headquarters" in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture. A year later, a cult "hit squad" raided the home of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and killed him, his wife and infant son.
Matsumoto never left the cult and stayed with her husband.