TOKYO, Aug. 18–(Kyodo)- The Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld the death sentence passed on Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior member of AUM Shinrikyo, for his role in making sarin and other poisons used in crimes committed by the cult, including the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack.
The high court rejected an appeal by Tsuchiya, 41, against the death sentence passed on him in January 2004 by the Tokyo District Court, which found him guilty on six out of seven counts, the exception being a charge of hiding two wanted AUM members. He was found guilty of murder and other crimes that led to the deaths of 20 people.
“The AUM-related crimes, such as the sarin gas attack, could not have taken place without him, and he was at the center of the crimes,” Presiding Judge Yu Shiraki said in upholding the lower court ruling.
Tsuchiya made sarin gas by utilizing his knowledge of chemistry on instructions from AUM founder Shoko Asahara.
“The crimes were vicious and cruel, and there is no choice but to give him the death penalty in light of the feelings of the victims and the impact that they had on society,” Shiraki said.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 27, 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the Tokyo subway attacks.
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Taking a break?
The high court opened the appeal hearings last November but Tsuchiya did not show up, saying he had no obligation to appear in court. He also refused to see court-appointed defense lawyers.
Tsuchiya again refused to appear in court for the day’s appeal hearings.
Commenting on the failure to show up, Shiraki said, “I cannot feel a willingness to reform from a defendant who rejects hearings.”
In contrast to Tsuchiya’s original trial, which took more than 100 hearings over eight years, the high court appeal sessions ended in May this year, after just four hearings.
In the appeal, Tsuchiya’s defense lawyers said he did not intend to kill anyone as he was not informed of specific plans about attacking the subway. They also claimed that AUM unilaterally took advantage of his scientific knowledge.
But the high court rejected the claim.
Tsuchiya was in a doctoral program in chemistry at Tsukuba University when he became a live-in member of the cult.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.