Asahara trial

Kyodo News Service/May 11, 2001

Tokyo (Kyodo) -- The court trying AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara heard for the first time Friday from a relative of one of the seven people killed in the cult's 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. The mother of Mii Yasumoto, who was 29 when she died, told the Tokyo District Court she wants the court to pass a death sentence on Asahara.

''My daughter was killed though she had dreams and hopes. I absolutely cannot forgive (the crime),'' Yasumoto's mother told the hearing. AUM members allegedly sprayed the gas from a van in a residential area of the city, 160 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

Prosecutors believe their target was a condominium where judges and court officials of the Matsumoto Branch of the Nagano District Court lived. The cult members were involved in a legal dispute with locals over AUM's premises at that time.

The trial of 46-year-old Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, began in April 1996. Asahara was originally indicted on 17 charges, including a sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways in 1995 in which 12 people died.

Prosecutors later withdrew four of the charges, however, to speed up court proceedings. The wife of Tsuneo Hishinuma, a subway operator killed in the Tokyo sarin attack, told Friday's hearing, ''I hope the series of hearings will finish as soon as possible to give peace to the spirits of the dead.''

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