Cultist's term upheld for 1994 murder attempt

The Japan Times/February 1, 2002

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a 12-year prison term handed down to an Aum Shinrikyo defendant for attempting to kill attorney Taro Takimoto with sarin gas in May 1994.

Yoshinobu Aoyama, 41, a former cult lawyer, was found guilty by the Tokyo District Court in 2000 of attempted murder and eight other charges, including slandering a company president, harboring an Aum fugitive and submitting false documents to local authorities.

In supporting the lower court ruling, the high court agreed that Aoyama played an indispensable role in the attempt on Takimoto's life. Aoyama issued orders to other cult members to kill Takimoto at the scene and provided important details, including the victim's schedule. The court also said he knew about the deadly nature of sarin.

His defense lawyers have not decided whether to appeal the ruling to the top court.

The defense team appealed the lower court ruling, claiming Aoyama did not intend to kill Takimoto because he did not believe the nerve gas was deadly. They argued the 12-year prison term was too severe for the charges.

According to the high court, Aoyama and four other Aum members applied liquid sarin to the outside of the windshield of Takimoto's car in May 1994 near the Kofu District Court in Yamanashi Prefecture, following cult founder Shoko Asahara's order to murder Takimoto, who supported cult members who wanted to leave the cult. Takimoto experienced minor vision impairment when he was driving home later, it said.

In another case, Aoyama submitted a false document to authorities to obtain real estate in Namino, Kumamoto Prefecture, it said.

The former lawyer also helped a wanted Aum fugitive to hide in hotels in Ishikawa Prefecture and provided him with 5 million yen between March and April 1995 to aid his flight, the lower court said.

A graduate of Kyoto University, Aoyama became a lawyer in April 1984 and joined Aum in 1989. His registration as a lawyer was nullified in June 1995 following his arrest the previous month.

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