Tomita murder case opened at Shoko Asahara's trial


Japan Times, February 9, 2000

The trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara on Wednesday turned to the killing of follower Toshio Tomita, bringing the number of cases the court has dealt with to 10, out of the 17 for which Asahara stands accused.

At the day's session before the Tokyo District Court, former follower Shigeo Sugimoto testified in detail how he and three other cult members tortured and killed Tomita in July 1994.

Sugimoto, who was Asahara's bodyguard and chauffeur, said the cult suspected someone had poisoned water at an Aum facility in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, when a female follower got a mysterious burn in July 1994.

Since Tomita had driven a truck transporting water from another Aum facility, Asahara fingered him as a suspect and ordered Tomomitsu Niimi, a senior cult member, to force Tomita to confess, Sugimoto said.

A few days after the skin burn occurred, Niimi, Sugimoto and two others tortured Tomita at the Kamikuishiki facility by sticking needles in his toe and pressing a sizzling fire iron against his skin.

"Since Tomita's shirt was drenched in sweat, I could see steam vaporize from it," Sugimoto said. "I could smell his skin burning."

After Tomita repeatedly denied the accusation, Asahara, who was in another room, ordered Sugimoto to kill Tomita, he said.

With Tomita unconscious from the pain, Sugimoto and Niimi strangled Tomita with a rope. They later burned his body in a microwave incinerator, Sugimoto said.

Later in the proceedings, former Aum doctor Ikuo Hayashi testified how he conducted polygraph and similar "spy checks" on Tomita to see if he was lying about the alleged poisoning. He told Asahara the test results showed signs that Tomita was lying, Hayashi said.


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