Tokyo, 7 May: The death sentence for a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult has been finalized after the Supreme Court rejected his plea to change the ruling, informed sources said Saturday [7 May].
Kazuaki Okazaki, 44, who was charged with murdering a lawyer, and the lawyer’s wife and infant son, as well as an AUM follower in 1989, is the first AUM defendant whose death sentence has been fixed.
A total 13 defendants, including AUM founder Shoko Asahara, were sentenced to death by district or high courts in connection with a series of AUM-related crimes.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Okazaki to death in October 1998. The Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling in December 2001.
According to the court rulings, Okazaki murdered lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their one-year-old son Tatsuhiko, in November 1989. Sakamoto had been helping people with complaints against the cult. He also killed former AUM member Shuji Taguchi, 21, in February 1989 when Taguchi attempted to leave the cult.
Okazaki had asked for leniency, saying he surrendered himself and was the first among the perpetrators of the Sakamoto family murders to confess to the crime.
The death sentence was finalized after the top court’s No 1 Petty Bench, which handed down the ruling on 7 April, rejected a protest by Okazaki and his lawyers to have the ruling changed.
His trial was the shortest among the 13 because he admitted to the charges from the start. Among the 13 death row inmates, seven others have appealed to the top court, while the remaining five are still making their appeals at high courts.
Okazaki was one of the senior members of the cult founded by Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. He left the cult in 1990 after the murders of the Sakamoto family and was arrested in 1995.
Asahara was sentenced to death in February last year over 13 cases, including the fatal 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and the murder of the Sakamoto family.
AUM Shinrikyo renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.