A former member of a Japanese doomsday cult was jailed on Monday for eight years for his role in a murder committed before the group's deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway some six years later.
Toshiyasu Ouchi, 48, the former head of Aum Shinrikyo's (Supreme Truth sect) Russian branch, was convicted of throttling to death 21-year-old fellow member Shuji Taguchi with a rope, in 1989, Kyodo news agency said.
According to the ruling handed down by the Tokyo District Court, Ouchi had conspired with several other cult members to kill Taguchi after leaders learned he wanted to leave the group.
Prosecutors had sought a 10-year term, but Ouchi's lawyers argued he did not participate directly in the murder and did not conspire with leaders, whose directives had to be taken as orders.
They added that Taguchi played, at most, only a subordinate role in the killing.
In 1998, Taguchi was the target of an international manhunt after he fled Russia when authorities there, suspecting he was trying to revive the cult in that country, began looking into his activities.
He fled through three countries before being apprehended in Cyprus several weeks later.
Aum, which preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for various calamities, unleashed lethal sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.
The cult earlier this year changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- and insists it is now a benign religious group.