TOKYO, Dec. 10, 2009 (Kyodo News International) — The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a high court decision that sentenced former AUM Shinrikyo cult member Yoshihiro Inoue to death for playing a key role in the deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Justice Seishi Kanetsuki, the presiding judge of the case at the highest court’s first petty bench, turned down an appeal from Inoue, 39, against a high court decision that overturned a life sentence and instead gave him the death penalty.
Under Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Inoue can still file an objection with the highest court against its decision. But it is limited to technicalities such as an error in the wording. Thursday’s decision is expected to eventually become final as the highest court has rarely accepted such an objection.
This would bring the number of former AUM members on death row to nine for their involvement in a series of crimes. Among them is AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 54, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
Of the nine death row inmates, only Inoue was given a life sentence at the district court level. Cases of four other AUM members who were sentenced to death at lower courts are still pending at the Supreme Court.
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Inoue has been charged in 10 criminal cases. The Tokyo High Court gave him the death penalty in May 2004, overturning a life sentence by the Tokyo District Court in June 2000.
According to court findings, Inoue, in conspiracy with Asahara and senior AUM members, conducted the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and sickening thousands.
Inoue was also convicted of involvement in two murder cases in 1994 and in the 1995 abduction of a Tokyo notary clerk who died later.
The point at issue in the appeal was how great a role Inoue played in the gas attack.
In his first trial, the court decided that he had provided “logistical support,” while the high court ruled he had an “overall coordinating role” under Aum leader Chizuo Matsumoto (a.k.a. Shoko Asahara) and Hideo Murai in implementing the attacks.
According to the ruling of the high court, Inoue plotted the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands, with Aum Supreme Truth sect leader Shoko Asahara.
The court also ruled he kidnapped and murdered Kiyoshi Kariya, then 68, who tried to shelter his sister after she escaped from the sect.
The bearded guru was revered as a god by his sect, which preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic visions. He was obsessed with Nazi-invented sarin gas and paranoid his enemies would attack him with it.