Asahara's victims still suffer despite death ruling

Mainichi Shimbun/February 27, 2004

Victims of AUM Shinrikyo's lethal crimes said the founder and ringleader Shoko Asahara deserved the death sentence handed down to him Friday, but added that their mental suffering would remain.

Yoshiyuki Kono, a resident in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, who reported AUM's sarin gassing in the city in 1994, heard of the ruling at his home.

"I was expecting the Tokyo District Court to sentence him to death," Kono, 54, said. "If he is discontent with the ruling, he should clearly express what he thinks in an appeal court."

Kono, whose wife has been bed-ridden since the sarin attack, added that Asahara, 48, as founder of the AUM cult, must tell all existing members to abandon any dangerous religious ideas.

Seiichi Takeuchi, 75, who headed an anti-AUM campaign in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, where the cult constructed their living facilities, harshly criticized Asahara.

"Although I'm against the death penalty in general, Asahara's case is exceptional," Takeuchi said. "He hasn't spoken about his true intentions during the hearings and has never made an apology."

In Tokyo, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives as a result of crimes committed by AUM, including the high-profile sarin attack on the subway system in March 1995, were also furious at Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

A 44-year-old man, whose sister became bed-ridden after the Tokyo subway gassing, said, "I thought I saw a smirk on Matsumoto's face (during the ruling). He gave me the creeps."

Shizue Takahashi, wife of a subway worker who died at Kasumigaseki Station during the lethal gas attack, heard the ruling in the court after visiting her husband's grave.

"I came here with my husband's soul," Takahashi, 57, said. "I am satisfied that he was sentenced to hang."

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