TOKYO, Feb. 17–(Kyodo) _ A former AUM Shinrikyo cult cadre who is appealing the death sentence against him to the Supreme Court, said Thursday that the truth surrounding a series of crimes related to the cult will remain forever hidden if death-row followers of AUM founder Shoko Asahara are executed before him.
“I do not intend to plead for my life…But if the sentences on the followers become fixed before Asahara’s and they are executed before him, all the unresolved issues in the AUM cases would remain unresolved,” Kazuaki Okazaki said in statement sent to Kyodo News.
Okazaki, 44, was found guilty of murdering anti-AUM lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their 1-year-old son Tatsuhiko, in November 1989. He was also found guilty of murdering former AUM member Shuji Taguchi, 21, in February 1989 when Taguchi attempted to leave the cult.
He had his first court hearing at the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Okazaki’s statement said AUM followers, with the freedom to speak up during their trials, are the only option of shedding light on the AUM cases, since Asahara has maintained his silence in his trial. Cutting their chance to speak will not resolve the case, he said.
Okazaki said he does not seek a lighter sentence, but wants his sentence to be fixed on the same day as Asahara’s appeal hearing.
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Taking a break?
Asahara, 49, was sentenced to death in February last year over 13 cases, including the fatal 1995 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway and the murder of the Sakamoto family.
Thirteen people have received the death penalty in connection with a series of AUM-related cases.
In the hearing, Okazaki’s lawyers urged the court to review the death penalty on Okazaki, saying his surrender to authorities greatly contributed to solving the case. Under the Criminal Code, sentences on those who surrender can be made lighter.
In October 1998, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Okazaki to death, saying he turned himself in for “self-protection.” The Tokyo High Court in December 2001 upheld the ruling.