Sarin victim's kin wait for Asahara's conviction


June 25, 1999

TOKYO, June 25, 1999 (Kyodo) -- Relatives of one of seven people killed in the 1994 Matsumoto sarin nerve gas attack recently spoke of their anger at AUM Shinrikyo cult leader Shoko Asahara, who has been charged for masterminding the attack, before the incident's fifth anniversary Sunday.

"I want to open up Asahara's mouth and have him drink of sarin," said Teruo Ito, 65, who lost his son Tomomi, then 26, in the attack.

"I can avenge the murder of my son only with the disbandment of AUM and the establishment of court rulings against those responsible for it," he said.

At around 10:40 p.m. on June 27, 1994, several AUM members, under the instruction of Asahara, sprayed the deadly nerve gas in a residential area in the central Japan city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, killing seven residents and injuring 144 others, prosecutors say.

AUM actually targeted judges of the Matsumoto Branch of the Nagano District Court, which was handling a lawsuit against the cult at the time, they say.

Yoko Ito, 59, mother of the late Tomomi Ito, said she is especially angered at Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, when she sees him falling asleep during his own trial.

"Does he ever understand whose trial he sits for? It so irritates me. I want him to consider the feelings of people who lost their children," said Yoko Ito, who needs to take a three-hour train ride to go to the Tokyo District Court from their house in Chiba Prefecture to hear the trial.

Survivors of the sarin attack are still suffering from physical and psychological disorders.

According to a recent survey by a Matsumoto hospital, 29 local people are still showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), such as having headaches and difficulty going to sleep, or feeling sick when watching TV programs about the Matsumoto gassing.

In the attack, 14 AUM members, including Asahara, have been indicted on a murder charge.

Of them, eight, including Asahara, are still on trial at the district court, two were imprisoned after forgoing appeals of their sentencing, and the remaining four are in a second trial after filing an appeal.

Hiroshi Araki, the deputy chief of AUM's public relations department, said he "cannot comment on the (Matsumoto gassing) case at this stage."

"We have yet to reach agreement inside our organization on whether our teachings were related to the case. We believe in the teachings given by the guru (Asahara), and we would like to wait and see the course of the trial," he said.

The cult group is also charged for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured nearly thousands.

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