Japanese court upholds death sentence for sect "killing machine"

ChannelNewsAsia.com/December 5, 2003

Tokyo -- A Japanese court upheld on Friday a death sentence handed to a former Aum Supreme Truth cult member known as the "killing machine" for crimes including the deadly 1995 gassing of Tokyo's subway.

The Tokyo High Court rejected an appeal against the sentence by Yasuo Hayashi, 45, who punctured three bags of deadly sarin gas inside subway carriages on March 20, 1995, causing the deaths of 12 people and injuries to thousands more.

"This was an organized crime and as a result, the punishment should be severe," Judge Koshi Murakami said.

Hayashi's lawyers argued their client was afraid of 48-year-old Aum guru Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and had been a mere accessory to a plan to overthrow the state.

Prosecutors countered that Hayashi took an active role in inspecting the subway before the attack.

Hayashi was also convicted of taking part in a sarin gas attack on June 27, 1994 in the city of Matsumoto, central Japan, which killed seven people and injured 144 others.

Hayashi modified a vehicle to spray the gas outside an apartment block housing judges hearing a case involving the cult.

He was also convicted of attempted murder for releasing cyanide gas in a public washroom in Tokyo's busy Shinjuku station in May 1995.

He fled after the Shinjuku incident but was arrested more than a year and a half later in southern Okinawa prefecture after an intensive police manhunt.

He is the fourth former Aum member to lose an appeal against a death sentence. Ten others have been sentenced to hang but no executions have been carried out.

Two verdicts against cult members are outstanding, including one in the trial of cult leader Matsumoto, which is due on February 27 next year.

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