Chronology of cultists' legal battles


Japan Times, December 29, 1999

The following is a 1999 chronology of trial proceedings and other developments involving key Aum Shinrikyo defendants:

Feb. 16: The Tokyo District Court sentences Hisako Ishii, 39, a close aide of cult founder Shoko Asahara, to 44 months in prison for abetting the flight of three cult fugitives wanted in connection with the March 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and two other charges.

May 19: Prosecutors demand life in prison for Koichi Kitamura, 31, for driving a getaway car for Kenichi Hirose, 35, who carried out the attack, on the day of the 1995 sarin gassing.

May 31: Prosecutors seek the death penalty for Masato Yokoyama, 36, for releasing liquid sarin on Tokyo subways.

July 22: The Tokyo District Court sentences Masahiro Tominaga, 30, Aum's former doctor, to 18 years in prison for trying to kill anti-Aum lawyer Taro Takimoto, sending a letter bomb to the Tokyo governor and planting cyanide gas at Shinjuku Station.

Sept. 9: The Tokyo High Court overturns a lower court ruling and commutes the sentence of Tomoko Matsumoto, 41, wife of Asahara, from seven to six years for her role in the January 1994 hanging of errant cultist Kotaro Ochida. She has filed an appeal.

Sept. 22: Prosecutors demand life imprisonment for Kiyotaka Tonozaki, 35, for driving Yokoyama to a subway station on the day of the sarin attack.

In another trial the same day, Asahara testifies that he did not know anything about the 1995 sarin attack, blaming the offenses on his former disciples, the late Hideo Murai and Yoshihiro Inoue. Asahara claims Inoue first proposed the gas attack.

Sept. 30: The Tokyo District Court sentences Yokoyama to death for his role in the 1995 sarin gassing. He has filed an appeal.

Nov. 8: Prosecutors seek 15 years for Aum lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama, 39, for his role in the attempted killing of Takimoto in April 1994 in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Nov. 10: Asahara testifies at the trial of three cult figures that he ordered his disciples to manufacture rifles to "deepen the disciples' understanding" of him. He also says he ordered the 1994 lynching of follower Toshio Tomita, whom Aum had accused of spying.

Nov. 12: The Tokyo District Court sentences Kitamura to life for driving a getaway car for Hirose, who stands accused of releasing sarin on a subway train. Kitamura has filed an appeal.

Dec. 2: Lawyers for Tonozaki, who drove Yokoyama to a subway station, claim in their closing argument that their client had merely followed orders. The court will deliver a ruling Feb. 17.

Dec. 7: Prosecutors seek the death penalty for Toru Toyoda, 31, and Hirose for releasing nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system. They also demand life imprisonment for Shigeo Sugimoto, 40, for driving a getaway car for Yasuo Hayashi, who pierced bags containing sarin that day in March 1995.

Dec. 10: Prosecutors demand the death penalty for Hayashi, 42, once dubbed the cult's killing machine, for the subway gassing.

Dec. 15: Prosecutors demand the death penalty for Satoru Hashimoto, 32, for his involvement in the November 1989 killing of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their infant son. He had also been convicted of being involved in the June 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Dec. 17: Prosecutors demand the death penalty for Kiyohide Hayakawa, 50, for his role in the November 1989 slaying of the Sakamoto family and six other charges.

Dec. 24: Prosecutors demand the death penalty for Inoue, 30, the cult's former intelligence chief, for his role in the Tokyo gas attack and nine other charges.

On the same day, lawyers for Aoyama plead their client's innocence in the 1994 attempted murder of Takimoto. Aoyama admits seven other minor charges. The court is scheduled to hand down its ruling on March 29.

Dec. 29: Fumihiro Joyu, 37, is freed from Hiroshima Prison after serving three years for forgery and perjury. The cult's former spokesman, Joyu is seen as the de facto leader of Aum.


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