Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
Aum Shinrikyo cultist Tomomasa Nakagawa on Wednesday appealed a death penalty ruling the Tokyo District Court handed down recently for his role in the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system and the murder of a lawyer and his family.
On Wednesday last week, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Nakagawa, 41, to death for conspiring with Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 48, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, to commit the crimes.
While prosecutors condemned Chizuo Matsumoto, founder of the Aum Supreme Truth group, as the mastermind of a series of crimes committed by Aum members in which a total of 27 people were killed, defense lawyers claimed that Matsumoto's followers got out of hand in committing the crimes, including the deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
But Matsumoto's silence denied the defense team the information they needed to build a convincing case in the final hearing of Matsumoto's trial, held at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday and Friday.
The trial concluded Friday after 7! years, and the court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Feb. 27.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors described the 48-year-old Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, as "the most atrocious criminal ever." Defense lawyers said he was "a truly religious figure."
The defense lawyers contended that, at the peak of his powers, Matsumoto had about 14,000 followers and that religious scholars both in and outside the country once gave him high praise for being "an excellent ascetic." They went on to say that Matsumoto's religious thought was "based on traditional Buddhism and yoga and developed through the disciplines and studies of sacred books." They said his philosophy was "not a dangerous one."
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