Death sentence for AUM Shinrikyo cult member to be finalized

Japan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down an appeal from Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult who was sentenced to death over a series of crimes committed by group members, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Kyodo reports:

Tsuchiya, 46, will be the 11th AUM member to be on death row after the ruling is finalized following certain procedures. Two other appeals involving Seiichi Endo, 50, and Tomomasa Nakagawa, 48, are still pending at the top court after they were sentenced to death by lower courts.

Tsuchiya received the death sentence in January 2004 for playing a key role in the murder of 13 people in crimes committed by the sect, including two separate deadly sarin gas attacks, as well as the murder of a young man.

At the time Kyodo said the court concluded that Tsuchiya had developed all chemical weapons used in the crimes he was charged with under the instruction of Asahara.

”It is not an exaggeration to say that without him, the AUM-related crimes in which chemical weapons were used could not have taken place,” the judge said. ”He played a major role in a series of crimes.”

Aum Shinrikyo committed a series of crimes, including several murders, before the gas attack on the Tokyo metro system. After the Tokyo attack, several cult apologists defended the cult.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

The leader of the cult, Shoko Asahara, already sits on death row. He was sentenced to death in February 2004, ending an eight-year trial that found him guilty of 13 crimes. Mr. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, lost his final appeal to overturn his death sentence in September 2006. In all, the death sentence has been finalized for 10 of the 13 found guilty, according to NHK.

The cult remains active today with about 1,500 followers and 34 facilities across the country, according to 2009 statistics compiled by Japanese authorities maintaining surveillance on the group. But membership numbers have dropped sharply from its peak in the 1990s when it reached the tens of thousands.

Research resources on Aum Shinrikyo

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