Life term upheld in '95 sarin attack

The Japan Times/January 30, 2002

The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday upheld a life sentence handed down in 1999 to an Aum Shinrikyo defendant for his involvement in the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Koichi Kitamura, 33, was sentenced to life by the Tokyo District Court for driving senior Aum member Koichi Hirose to a station on the Marunouchi Line in Tokyo on March 20, 1995. Hirose boarded a train at the station and released liquid sarin from two bags, killing one person.

The high court also noted that Kitamura harbored Aum fugitive Takeshi Matsumoto for about a month after the subway attack.

In November 1999, the lower court supported prosecutors' demand that Kitamura be given a life sentence, claiming he conspired with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and others in the attack and played an indispensable role.

Kitamura's counsel appealed the ruling, claiming that he did not know sarin was deadly and that a life sentence is too severe for his role in the attack.

Four of the five cultists who released sarin in the Tokyo subway attack, which killed 12 and injured more than 5,000, have been handed death sentences by the Tokyo District Court. All four have filed appeals.

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