Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday sentenced a former member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult to life imprisonment for his involvement in the June 1994 lethal sarin nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and three other cult-linked crimes.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Noboru Nakamura, 34, who served as the cult's self-styled deputy home affairs minister. Seven people died in the Matsumoto gassing.
Cult followers killed 12 and injured more than 5,000 in the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Nakamura was also implicated in the June 1994 murder of Aum follower Toshio Tomita, and the abduction and killing of public notary Kiyoshi Kariya in February 1995, according to Wednesday's ruling.
He also helped build a sarin plant in Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture, between November 1993 and December 1994, the ruling said.
"Although he bears grave criminal responsibility, his role in the crimes--with the exception of the Kariya case--was a subordinate one," Judge Toshio Nagai said, explaining why he did not impose the death penalty. "Therefore, it is inappropriate to impose a punishment that outweighs the seriousness of his actions."
Nakamura is the second former Aum member to be sentenced to life imprisonment in the face of prosecution demands for the death penalty. The first was 31-year-old Yoshihiro Inoue, who had been a leading member of the cult.
Nakamura was the sixth Aum member to be handed a life sentence by the district court in connection with crimes committed by the cult.
The court focused on Nakamura's role in the Matsumoto case, the most serious of the four crimes for which he was convicted.
During his trial, Nakamura denied he intended to kill, claiming he did not realize the cult was producing sarin and that he was not aware that the gas was deadly.
While the court agreed that Nakamura had been unaware that the substance sprayed in Matsumoto was sarin, and that prosecuters failed to prove he intended to commit murder, it found that he had a subconscious desire to kill.
On Nakamura's role as a lookout in the Matsumoto sarin attack, the ruling said, "Although he did not have to kill anyone who happened to get in the way of the attack, he played a role in ensuring that the crime was committed as planned."
Tokyo - A former member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Tokyo court on Wednesday for crimes including taking part in a deadly 1994 nerve-gas attack.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Noboru Nakamura, 34, for murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, and abduction leading to death, and illegally disposing of a body.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty.
Nakamura was found guilty of conspiring with Shoko Asahara, 46, AUM's founder and guru whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, over the sarin gas attack on June 27, 1994 in the city of Matsumoto.
The doomsday cult released the Nazi-invented Sarin gas in 1994 outside an apartment block housing judges in Matsumoto, central Japan.
The fumes killed seven people and temporarily affected 144 others, some seriously. It was an horrific curtain raiser to the infamous March 1995 gassing of Tokyo's subway by the same cult, which killed 12 people and injured thousands of other rush-hour passengers.
"The defendant's criminal responsibility is grave as the Matsumoto sarin case was institutionally carried out under the supervision of (Chizuo) Matsumoto, which is anti-social and vicious," said presiding judge Toshio Nagai. "The defendant has not expressed any remorse directly to the victims' families," he added in passing sentence.
Nakamura was also convicted of the abduction and killing of Kyoshi Kariya, the 68-year old brother of an AUM follower in 1995 and conspiracy to kill a 27-year-old AUM member in 1994, and of helping to build the cult's sarin production plant.
TOKYO - The Tokyo District Court sentenced to life imprisonment Wednesday a former member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult who took part in four incidents, including a 1994 nerve-gas attack that killed seven people in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
Presiding Judge Toshio Nagai handed down the ruling to Noboru Nakamura, 34.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty.
According to the ruling, Nakamura conspired with Shoko Asahara, 46, the AUM founder whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and served as a lookout in the sarin gas attack on June 27, 1994, as other AUM members released the gas.
The attack targeted a condominium where judges lived. It killed seven and injured four nearby residents.
Nakamura was also involved in abducting and killing an AUM follower's 68-year-old relative in 1995 and conspired to kill a 27-year-old AUM member in 1994. He took part in the construction of a sarin production plant as well, the ruling said.
Nakamura had admitted serving as a lookout in the 1994 gas attack. But he denied conspiring with Asahara and that he intended to kill anyone, saying he did not know sarin was a deadly gas and that other members had released the gas.
Nagai said in handing down the ruling, ''Each incident was carried out under the order of Asahara, who was considered an absolute being in the religious cult, and Nakamura took the incidents as his job at the cult and did not have his own motivation for them.''
He had only ''subordinately participated'' in three incidents, including the Matsumoto sarin gas attack, the ruling said.
The ruling also said it cannot be proved Nakamura knew that the gas released in Matsumoto was sarin and that he was aware it was deadly. The ruling added it is difficult to say whether Nakamura was able to predict the serious damage the gas caused.
The court decided that there is great discrepancy between the action of Asahara, the mastermind of the crime, and Nakamura and that it cannot admit that capital punishment is imperative for Nakamura.
The prosecutors had demanded the death penalty, saying it is impossible to reform Nakamura. They said there is a danger of Nakamura again committing similar crimes because he still sees Asahara as the ultimate religious leader and maintains AUM beliefs allowing murder.
Nakamura's defense lawyers said imprisoning Nakamura for a fixed term is appropriate because he never played a leading role in any of the incidents.
Two other former AUM members who took part in the attack in Matsumoto have already been sentenced. Satoru Hashimoto, 34, who drove a van equipped with a sprayer and fan that released the deadly gas, was sentenced to death. Takashi Tomita, 43, who drove a lookout van, was handed a 17-year prison term. Both have appealed the rulings.
TOKYO - The AUM Shinrikyo cult on Tuesday opened up its facilities and cult members' apartment rooms to local residents, Kyodo News and other mass media.
Fumihiro Joyu, a leading member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult said that there was ''no special reason'' for opening the facilities, located in three apartment buildings in Minami-Karasuyama in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, which are regarded by public security authorities as the cult's headquarters.
''I would like you to see (the facilities) because 'seeing is believing','' 38-year-old Joyu explained.
The cult distributed papers on regulations of its activities which referred to AUM founder Shoko Asahara, who is being tried on a number of charges, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
In the regulations, it referred to 46-year-old Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and said, ''We do not deify him or see him as absolute as to justify the crimes (committed). But we purely evaluate and succeed the religious components (of Asahara's teachings).''
Police and investigators from the Public Security Investigation Agency have each searched the facilities on two occasions.
Residents living in the neighborhood have set up a council and have been conducting protest activities and collecting signatures for petitions seeking cult members to move out of the apartments. But prospects for a resolution have been bleak.
One of the reasons for opening up its facilities to the public is believed to be the cult's wish to shake off its image that it still strongly beholds the beliefs of Asahara.
According to the cult, members started moving into the three apartment in December last year after the 76-year-old male owner of the apartments offered to rent them out to the cult.
Joyu and 46 other cult members live in the three apartments, the cult said.
The cult pays for a monthly rent of 2.5 million yen and food and textbook costs totaling about 5 million yen per month through donations made to the cult.
The first floor of one of the three apartments has been transformed into a training-hall, where an intensive training seminar was held in early May attended by about 190 people.
NAGOYA - The owner of a building in Nagoya where the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult set up a branch office has ordered the group to vacate the building by July 31, police sources said Wednesday.
The 60-year-old owner told the AUM group on April 27 that he will not renew the contract to rent the three-story building in Nagoya's Nishi Ward and demanded they leave, the sources said. About eight AUM members are believed to live there.
He told a press conference Wednesday that AUM pledged in a written statement it would vacate the building by the end of August.
The man said he hopes to sell the building and the 880-square-meter plot, but ruled out the possibility of selling it to the cult. The sources said he wants to sell the property for 147 million yen and is currently looking for a buyer through a real estate agent.
The owner said from the beginning he intended to rent the building to the group for only one year and that the cult accepted the eviction order.
He also indicated he is seeking the eviction because he was ''bothered'' by press interviews and denied that AUM caused trouble such as delays in rent payment.
The cult opened the branch office in August last year under a one-year lease contract. Before that, the group had rented the building until December 1999.
The group has organized seminars for followers in violation of its agreement with the owner and caused anxiety among neighbors. Local residents had been seeking eviction of the cult and had collected 32,000 signatures by November last year.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and many other cultists have been tried on a number of charges, including the March 1995 sarin attack on Tokyo subways, which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Several cultists have been found guilty of various crimes, but Asahara's trial is still proceeding at a snail's pace.
The group now calls itself Aleph.
AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara should face the same treatment a deceased victim of the cult's deadly gas attacks went through, a bereaved family member told the Tokyo District on Thursday
"I want [Asahara] to face what my father did," the eldest daughter of sarin gas-attack victim Mitsuo Okada told the court during the cult founder's trial hearing Thursday. "I want him to breathe in sarin and get hooked up to an artificial respirator, then lie on a bed for a year and a half not being able to do anything."
Okada died in a coma at the age of 52, 15 months after the cult's gas attacks on Tokyo subways in 1995 that killed 12 and caused thousands to fall ill
"I still hate to think about it," Okada's daughter said, adding that she couldn't forgive people in the cult, which she believed thought everything was all right as long as they had no problems themselves
Several people who were seriously injured in the gas attacks have already given evidence at Asahara's trial. Testimonies from bereaved family members began Thursday.
TOKYO - The court trying AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara heard Thursday for the first time from relatives of those killed in the cult's 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, with the daughter of one of the victims saying she wants to see Asahara die by inhaling the same deadly nerve gas.
The woman, whose father Mitsuo Okada died after spending 14 months in a coma hooked up to a respirator, told the Tokyo District Court she hopes Asahara, 46, inhales sarin like her father and dies in the same way.
Okada, a 51-year-old company worker, was on his way to work on the Hibiya Line when his subway car was gassed.
His daughter told the court she could not believe the man lying in a coma in the hospital bed was her father. ''(My father) would play golf and go drinking energetically,'' she said in a tearful voice.
She said her mother was hospitalized for shock and still receives treatment.
Shizue Takahashi, 54, told the same hearing, ''My husband will not return and my heart will not heal, but my desire for revenge may be soothed if (Asahara) is executed.''
Her husband, Kazumasa Takahashi, deputy of the Tokyo subway's Kasumigaseki Station, died at age 50 after removing a plastic bag containing sarin from a train that had stopped at the station.
The attack left 12 people dead and more than 5,000 injured. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial in 13 criminal cases, including the Tokyo subway gassing.
Asahara was originally indicted on 17 charges but public prosecutors in October last year canceled indictments on four drug cases in order to help speed up his trial.
A former terrorist Red Army Faction member and human-rights activists plan to set up a computer store employing an AUM Shinrikyo cultist as a technical adviser.
The planned employment of the AUM member has set alarms ringing among public safety authorities, who say they will keep an eye on the Osaka store's operations when it opens this month.
"There is a possibility that this could become a new source of funds for the cult, and we want to monitor its movements," a public safety official said.
A former Red Army Faction member, 47, who was involved in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines flight bound for Fukuoka from Haneda in 1970, plans to run the show. He stressed that the AUM follower would take care of distribution and technical support, and not be involved in management. But authorities remain skeptical. "Even if they say the follower will not be involved in managing the store, we think there is a need to take precautions," the official said.
The activists reportedly plan to import low-priced computer parts from overseas, and will make both storefront and mail-order sales. Supporters of the group reportedly fronted money for the shop, to be located in Osaka's electrical Nipponbashi district.
Cult officials denied any involvement in the store's opening.
"We have had nothing to do with the planning of this store," a cult spokesman said. "Followers are free to choose where they work and what they do."
In addition to the AUM member, the human-rights activists reportedly plan to employ three daughters born in North Korea to hijackers of the Japan Airlines "Yodo-go" flight. The daughters, who have been issued travel documents to enter Japan, should arrive in the country on May 15.
"One of the aims of opening the store is to provide a place for children like this to work," the former Red Army Faction member said on condition of anonymity.
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