Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
A former member of the apocalyptic cult Aum Shinri Kyo was sentenced to hang yesterday for releasing sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway in an attack in 1995 which killed 12 people and made thousands of others ill.
Yasuo Hayashi, nicknamed "The Killer" by the Japanese media, was one of a team of five who carried out the attack, allegedly on the orders of the cult's guru, Shoko Asahara.Hayashi has also been charged with other serious crimes, including an earlier set of sarin murders in the town of Matsumoto in 1994.
The panel of three judges in the Tokyo District Court rejected his lawyers' claim that he feared for his own life and was forced to carry out the killings by Mr Asahara. The trial lasted three years.
Hayashi, 42, was quickly identified by the media as one of the principal villains of Aum Shinri Kyo, largely because he looks the part - 6ft tall, with thick brows and an acne-scarred face. But like most senior Aum members, he is an educated man who became involved in the cult, at the age of 30, through his interest in spirituality. In keeping with its plan to take over Japan after an apocalyptic war predicted by Mr Asahara, the cult was organised like a government; Hayashi became a member of its"Ministry of Science and Technology".
According to the judge, he took an active part in planning the subway sarin attack. The gas - a nerve agent invented by the Nazis - was synthesised in a laboratory at the cult's headquarters near Mount Fuji. At 7am on 20 March 1995 Hayashi boarded a train on the Hibiya line, which passes through some of central Tokyo's busiest stations, with bags of sarin wrapped in newspaper. After piercing the bags, he jumped off as the fumes spread through the sealed train.
Most of those responsible for the cult's crimes were arrested within a few weeks, but Hayashi was not captured until December 1996.
If he chooses to appeal against the sentence, several more years of legal hearings stretch ahead. Executions in Japan are rarely carried out promptly and take place in conditions of brutal secrecy: even relatives and lawyers are only informed after the sentence has been carried out.
Hayashi is the second Aum member to be sentenced to death, after 35-year-old Masato Yokoyama, who also took part in the subway attack. Four years after it began, the trial of Mr Asahara continues at a snail's pace; it could take be another 10 years before the appeals procedure is exhausted.
Senior Aum Shinrikyo follower Yasuo Hayashi was sentenced to death Thursday for releasing nerve gas on a Tokyo subway train in March 1995 and for his role in the deadly June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
The Tokyo District Court found Hayashi, 42, a key member of the cult's science team, guilty of releasing the gas on a train on the Hibiya Line -- one of the three lines that were attacked -- and killing eight people. Twelve people were killed and more than 5,400 injured in the incident.
The court also said Hayashi took part in the cult's sarin attack in Matsumoto that killed seven and injured hundreds, and in the foiled May 1995 cyanide attack at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.
Presiding Judge Kiyoshi Kimura said Hayashi deserves to die because his crimes inflicted "incredible" pain and agony upon the victims and their next of kin and posed a serious threat to society.
"Even though the defendant has been cooperative and repentant since his arrest, the role he played in the crimes cannot be forgiven," Kimura said, supporting the prosecution's demand for the death penalty.
The judge also rejected Hayashi's claim that he was afraid of cult leader Shoko Asahara and could not refuse his orders to carry out the attacks out of fear that he would be killed.
Pointing out that Hayashi was a fugitive for 18 months until his arrest in December 1996, the judge also said he maintained a strong faith in Asahara until the very end, countering claims by the defense that he was repentant.
Wearing a gray suit and white shirt, Hayashi sat motionless for three hours as the judge read out the ruling.
Hayashi, who joined Aum in 1987 at the age of 29, helped put together the vehicle used to release sarin in the residential area of Matsumoto on June 27, 1994, the court said.
The attack, aimed to disrupt ongoing litigation filed by local residents against the cult before the Nagano District Court, killed seven residents and injured more than 270 people.
In the subway attack, the objective of which was allegedly to create chaos in the heart of the central government and distract police from carrying out raids on the cult, Hayashi carried three plastic bags containing liquid sarin -- more than any of the other cultists -- onto a subway car on the morning of March 20.
He then punctured them with the tip of an umbrella several times to spread the lethal gas as the car arrived at Akihabara Station, the court said. In addition to the eight killed, about 2,500 were injured on the train.
The court also said Hayashi and four other Aum members placed bags of cyanide gas in a men's toilet in an underground concourse at Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi subway line on May 5, 1995, in a bid to distract police from their investigation into Asahara.
A passerby told station workers about the suspicious-looking bags and they were disposed of without injury.
After 18 months on the run, Hayashi was arrested in December 1996 on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture, about 300 km southwest of the main island of Okinawa.
During his trial, Hayashi admitted taking part in the three attacks, but claimed he dared not refuse any order from Asahara.
Hayashi said he began to have doubts around 1990 that Asahara was "the final emancipator" but believed the guru could still lead his training.
However, since Asahara began to punish or kill those who defied his orders, Hayashi became terrified and could not leave the cult, he said.
In addition, Hayashi said he was secretly dating a female follower at the time, an act that was prohibited by Asahara. Hayashi claimed he feared he would be killed if Asahara learned his secret.
The defendant also claimed he was not fully aware of the deadly nature of the sarin and did not think anyone would be killed by the substance. Hayashi also said in court that he did not know sarin was going to be sprayed in Matsumoto.
The court, however, said Hayashi maintained a strong faith in Asahara and spontaneously played key roles in the cult's crimes.
After his lawyers' final argument in February, Hayashi said the cult's crimes were "insane and perverted" and he suffers anguish every time he thinks of them.
Expressing apologies to the victims, Hayashi said at the time that he believed he would be sentenced to death.
After the ruling, Kiyoe Iwata, 61, whose 33-year-old daughter Takako was killed in the subway attack, said the ruling seemed to be fair as she believes that all the cultists who took part in the attack should pay with their lives.
Shizue Takahashi, 53, whose husband Kazumasa, an employee at Kasumigaseki subway station, was killed as he removed the sarin gas from a carriage, said she could not bear listening to the judge say Hayashi has shown regret and was "originally a sincere and diligent person."
"It was painful for me to hear that statement, as he is the person I can least forgive," she said.
Hiroshi Araki, a spokesman for the cult, which now calls itself Aleph, also attended Thursday's court session. He said later that while he respects the ruling, it was regrettable that Hayashi, whom he respected as a person, had received the death penalty.
Thursday's ruling is the third in which an Aum defendant has received the death penalty.
In 1999, the cult's chief scientist, Masato Yokoyama, was sentenced to die for his role in the subway attack. Kazuaki Okazaki was sentenced to hang in 1998 in connection with the 1989 abduction and murder of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family.
Of the 14 cultists accused of taking part in the subway attack, four, including cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi and intelligence chief Yoshihiro Inoue, have been given life terms.
Prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty for Kenichi Hirose and Toru Toyoda in connection with the subway attack. The court is expected to issue a ruling on July 17, when it will also decide the fate of Shigeo Sugimoto, whom prosecutors want sentenced to life for driving one of the attackers to a train station.
Families of those who died in the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack say they agree with the death sentence handed down to one of the perpetrators.
Bereaved families of victims of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo cult gas attack expressed their anger against Yasuo Hayashi, who was sentenced to death Thursday for his part in the crime.
``I can never forgive the man who released deadly sarin gas in the train that my daughter took,'' Kiyoe Iwata, 65, told reporters after attending the hearing at the Tokyo District Court.
Iwata's daughter, Takako, then 33, was one of the eight passengers who died after being gassed by Hayashi on a subway train on the Hibiya Line.
The court gave Hayashi, 42, a death sentence for his involvement in the March 20, 1995, sarin gas attack, which claimed a total of 12 lives and sickened more than 5,000 people on the Tokyo subway system.
The former senior member of the cult was also found guilty of taking part in another sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on June 27, 1994, in which seven people died.
Hayashi helped build a truck equipped with a sarin gas spraying device that was used in the attack.
Iwata, sitting in a front-row seat for observers, listened as the presiding judge read out the ruling.
``A part of me has died since Takako died. Wherever I go, I am always accompanied by my husband, as I can't go out alone,'' Iwata said.
She said she will speak about the ruling before the family Buddhist altar dedicated to her daughter.
``I think Takako would have wanted it (a death penalty for Hayashi),'' Iwata said.
Shizue Takahashi, 53, the widow of a subway station worker who died in the gas attack, said Hayashi should not appeal the ruling.
``If Hayashi appeals the ruling, I will consider him to have lied when he told the court he feels sorry and wants to apologize,'' Takahashi said.
``I think he should say `no' to his lawyers if they advise him to appeal the ruling,'' she said.
Yuji Nakamura, one of the lawyers supporting victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack, said Hayashi appeared to have been prepared for the death sentence. Nakamura said he wants Hayashi to consider what he can do for the victims of his crime.
According to defense lawyers, Hayashi has made his own Buddhist altar to which he prays for the souls of his victims
A former AUM Shinrikyo executive was sentenced to death Thursday for his leading role in the 1995 sarin gas attacks on Tokyo subways that killed 12 and sickened thousands. Yasuo Hayashi, 42, a high-ranking member of the cult accused of killing eight people in the attack, received the death penalty for his actions in his sentencing at the Tokyo District Court.
During the trial, Presiding Judge Kiyoshi Kimura said that Hayashi had committed the crime with the intention of advancing his own interests in the cult, and acknowledged that he had played a leading role.
"His motives were selfish and conceited. The responsibility of the accused is indeed great, and he can face nothing but the maximum penalty," Kimura said as he handed down the ruling.
Hayashi, a senior member of the cult's science and technology section, earlier told the court he had expected to receive the death sentence for the crimes.
"I believe I will be sentenced to death regardless of my motives for the crimes," he was quoted as saying.
He also accepted the term "killing machine," as appropriate in light of his actions.
"When I look objectively at what I've done, I can see that I am just that," he said in reference to the term.
According to the ruling, Hayashi boarded a Hibiya Line train on March 20, 1995 with three bags filled with liquid sarin. After puncturing the bags with an umbrella, he got off at Akihabara Station, leaving the liquid to run onto the floor of the carriage, the judge said.
Hayashi said that as soon as he punctured the bags, he began hoping that the sarin would not have its desired effect.
Asked why he had taken a third bag of the liquid onto the train while other cult members took only two, the accused said, "If I refused, someone else would have had to take it."
Lawyers representing Hayashi defended his actions, saying he was simply following orders - under threat of death - of cult leader Shoko Asahara. They insisted that if Hayashi had defied Asahara's orders in the sarin attack, he would have been murdered by cult members.
Hayashi was one of five members of the doomsday cult accused of being directly involved in the gassing and the second member to be handed the death penalty.
Last September, the court sentenced Masato Yokoyama, 36, to death for his involvement in the attack. Ikuo Hayashi, a 53-year-old cult member, also was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1998 for his supporting role in the crime.
Toru Toyoda and Kenichi Hirose, two other cult members who prosecutors say should receive the death penalty for their role in the gassing, are to be sentenced July 17.
Before shocking the world by unleashing mass murder, Japan's Aum Supreme Truth was an obscure cult with its roots in a small yoga school run by a half-blind acupuncturist.
In 1995, when it spread Nazi-invented Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway killing 12 and injuring thousands, the cult looked to be making true its claim that doomsday was coming.
The sect was founded in 1984 by a guru with failing eyesight, Shoko Asahara, as a yoga and meditation group called "Aum Shinsen-no-kai (Aum Group of Gods and Saints).
Asahara, born as Chizuo Matsumoto in 1955 to a poor farming family in southern Japan, renamed it Aum Supreme Truth in 1987 and began teaching a mixture of primitive Buddhism and Indian mysticism.
From those modest roots it grew into a commercial empire funded by computer sales and youthful devotees' savings, claiming to have 10,000 followers in Japan and another 30,000 in Russia just before the subway attack.
Asahara's ambition had grown in step with his group's. He wanted to become prime minister, according to disciples, and unsuccessfully ran for a parliamentary seat in 1990.
He taught his disciples that killing people who had committed "sins" was an act of salvation. That eventually applied to all people living in the modern world and became his justification for indiscriminate mass murder.
The flowing-haired and bearded Asahara declared himself to be the reincarnation of the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva, and the only person to have attained final enlightenment.
Many gave the cult all their cash and property in the hope of spiritually surviving the apocalypse envisioned by Asahara. Before the subway attack, the cult was responsible for a Sarin gas attack on the central city of Matsumoto at night which
killed seven. But its involvement was only revealed after the Tokyo subway outrage.
That proved Asahara's undoing. The guru has been in jail since his arrest in May 1995. His trial on 17 criminal charges opened in April 1996 but is nowhere close to a ruling.
In early December, the sect admitted for the first time its involvement in the terrifying subway gas attack and apologised to the victims. The apology coincided with a debate in parliament on anti-Aum legislation.
The cult had escaped being outlawed under legislation banning "subversive activities" in January 1997, when a legal panel ruled that it no longer posed a threat to society.
While stopping short of banning the group, parliament in December agreed to allow police to conduct raids and demand information and financial data from the sect without the need for a warrant.
The cult issued a statement on January 18 deposing the jailed guru as leader, naming Tatsuko Muraoka, a former romantic novel translator and nanny for Asahara's children, as its new representative.
The sect then changed its name to Aleph and vowed reforms, including a pledge to obey the law.
But authorities, alarmed as the sect improved its finances through computer and software sales and recruited new followers, were not convinced.
In January the Public Security Commission approved a clampdown on the sect amid fears it could strike again, putting it under surveillance for three years.
The panel judged Asahara "still has a decisive influence on the sect" and the cult "still has the danger of committing indiscriminate mass murder in the future."
TOKYO, June 29 (Reuters) - A key member of Japan's doomsday cult, dubbed a ``murder machine'' by the media for his crimes, including taking part in the deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway, was sentenced to death on Thursday.
Tokyo District Court Judge Kiyoshi Kimura said former Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult member Yasuo Hayashi, 42, deserved the sentence because he released the largest amount of poisonous sarin gas in the attack, which claimed 12 lives and injured thousands.
Prosecutors charged that Hayashi was directly responsible for the deaths of eight people by carrying three plastic bags of the deadly gas onto a packed commuter train. He released the gas by puncturing the bags with the sharpened tip of an umbrella.
Hayashi was also charged with other crimes, including taking part in a separate gassing the previous year.
Hayashi was the second cult member to receive the death penalty. The other, Masato Yokoyama, has appealed.
Hayashi told the court that he believed he would be sentenced to death. ``Whatever my motives may have been, I think I will get the death penalty,'' he was quoted as telling the court in February.
TOKYO, June 29 (Kyodo) The Tokyo District Court on Thursday sentenced a former member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult to death for his role in the 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the gassing of the Tokyo subway system in 1995, which claimed a total of 19 lives.
Yasuo Hayashi, 42, is the third to be sentenced by the court among five former AUM members who have been indicted for allegedly releasing sarin in the Tokyo subway. One received life imprisonment and the other was sentenced to death.
Lawyers defending Hayashi said the death sentence was too severe, and added that they may file an appeal.
Hayashi earlier told the court, ''I believe I will be sentenced to death regardless of my motive for the crimes.''
Presiding Judge Kiyoshi Kimura said Hayashi took part in the crimes for the benefit of AUM, its leader Shoko Asahara and himself.
The subway gassing was aimed at creating chaos in the capital to hinder a police probe of the cult at the time, and Hayashi selfishly thought he would ''make progress on his religious training'' by becoming one of the perpetrators in the gassing, Kimura said.
In his defense, Hayashi's attorneys said he was not adequately informed of the danger of sarin and was only following Asahara's orders, which carried the threat of death for disobedient AUM members.
Kimura rejected both claims, saying Hayashi was ''fully aware of the extremely lethal nature of sarin,'' and that he was not under the immediate threat of death, although he might have feared Asahara.
The judge opened the hearing by reading out the reasons for his ruling, an act that usually precedes a harsh sentence in Japanese courts.
He said Hayashi, who was a senior member of the group's ''science and technology'' section, played a leading role in the March 1995 subway gassing, which claimed 12 lives and injured more than 5,400.
In December, prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Hayashi on charges of murder, attempted murder and abetting murder in connection with the two gassings and a separate attempt to release cyanide gas in Tokyo's Shinjuku Station in May 1995.
In the Matsumoto gas attack, Hayashi was charged with abetting murder by helping modify a car to release sarin gas in a residential area of the city in June 1994.
Seven residents died in the attack, which was carried out near a dormitory for judges and court officials from the Matsumoto branch of the Nagano District Court. The attack is believed to have been targeted at judges who were handling a lawsuit involving the cult at the time.
In the Tokyo subway attack, Hayashi was one of five AUM members who separately released sarin gas on five trains on March 20, 1995.
Hayashi boarded a Hibiya Line train at Ueno Station shortly before 8 a.m. that day, carrying three nylon bags of liquid sarin that were wrapped in newspaper, the ruling said.
He placed the bags on the floor of the subway car and punctured them with the end of an umbrella around 8 a.m., when the train was near Akihabara Station, it said.
He then got off the train at Akihabara, leaving the liquid to run over the floor of the car. Eight people died.
Of the other four men involved in the subway gassing, 53-year-old Ikuo Hayashi, who released sarin on a Chiyoda Line train, killing two people, was sentenced by the same court to life in prison in May 1998, as demanded by the prosecution.
Both the prosecution and the court said they took into account how Ikuo Hayashi's confession helped the investigation of the subway case.
Masato Yokoyama, 36, was given the death penalty by the court in September last year, but he has appealed the ruling.
Toru Toyoda and Kenichi Hirose, for whom prosecutors demanded the death penalty in December, are to be sentenced July 17.
The Tokyo District Court was expected to hand down a severe sentence this afternoon to Yasuo Hayashi, a former Aum Shinrikyo leader charged with murder in the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway system.
The prosecution is seeking the death sentence for Hayashi, 42, who allegedly released more sarin than did the other four cultists during the March 20, 1995, attack, which left 12 people dead and sickened more than 5,000.
Presiding Judge Kiyoshi Kimura opened court this morning by reading out the reasons behind the sentence that he is to announce this afternoon. Courts ruling on serious offenses generally leave the verdict and sentencing until after the judge has made his statement.
The judge said that Hayashi committed the sarin gas attack ``with the aim of ensuring the continuation of the cult and for progress in his own cult training.''
The judge said that the sarin attack was masterminded by cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, 45, and that of the five cultists who actually released the gas, Hayashi had three plastic bags of sarin, whereas the others each had two.
Eight of the deaths were on the subway line that Hayashi reportedly attacked.
``It must be said that the defendant played an active role in committing the crime,'' the judge said.
During the trial, Hayashi had denied playing an active role in the attack, saying that he feared for his life if he did not follow Matsumoto's orders. Hayashi said he feared that the cult founder would doubt his loyalty and would reveal Hayashi's relationship with a female follower.
But the judge said that Hayashi's fear and distrust of Matsumoto was ``not serious.''
``It cannot be determined that the defendant followed orders out of fear of the cult founder Matsumoto,'' the judge said. He also concluded Hayashi still believed in the cult leader at the time of the subway attack.
Hayashi is also charged with abetting murder by helping construct a sarin gas sprayer in connection with a gas attack on a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in the summer of 1994.
Hayashi was in charge of the cult's so-called science and technology ministry.
The judge said that Hayashi was aware of the deadly nature of sarin gas and that the device was intended to kill people.
Back to the CESNUR Page on Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]