Tokyo -- Defense lawyers for a former senior Aum Shinrikyo cultist asked the Tokyo High Court on Thursday to overturn a ruling sentencing him to death for killing a family and fellow sect member, arguing their client was under mind control by his guru.
The lawyers for Kazuaki Okazaki, 40, pled for leniency in their closing argument of an appeal of the Tokyo District Court's death sentence handed down on Oct 23, 1998. The ruling was the first death sentence handed down in trials of members of the doomsday cult.
Okazaki admitted that he and other AUM members killed anti-AUM lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their 1-year-old son Tatsuhiko in November 1989. Okazaki was also convicted of killing former AUM member Shuji Taguchi, 21, in February 1989.
In the appeal, his lawyers asked for leniency, arguing Okazaki was under mind control of the cult's founder Shoko Asahara, 46, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, at the time he committed the killings and that his confession contributed to solving the crimes.
A decision by the Tokyo High Court is expected to be handed down on Dec 13. Taguchi had threatened to kill Asahara if he was not allowed to quit the cult, according to the district court ruling. Sakamoto was helping parents get their children out of the cult and preparing a lawsuit against it.