Cultist who made nerve gas is sentenced to death


Chicago Tribune, July 29, 2000
From Tribune News Services

TOKYO, JAPAN Another senior member of the doomsday cult that carried out a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway five years ago was sentenced to death by a Japanese court Friday.

Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, the former "construction minister" of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, was responsible for producing the sarin gas that killed 12 people and sickened thousands when it was released on crowded Tokyo subway trains in March 1995.

He also was found guilty of complicity in two murder cases, including the killing of a lawyer who was offering assistance to people trying to leave the cult.

Hayakawa is the third Aum member to get the death sentence since late June. Satoru Hashimoto, 33, was given the same punishment Tuesday. Both played a part in the murders of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and infant son in 1989.

Hayakawa also was convicted of strangling a young cult member in February 1989. Still on trial is Shoko Asahara, the force behind the Aum cult. Like several others among the 14 cultists indicted, Hayakawa's defense rested on the claim that he was brainwashed by the nearly blind, bearded Asahara. In Japan, the death penalty is carried out by hanging.

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