Death penalty upheld for Hayashi
The Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld the death penalty for senior Aum Shinrikyo member Yasuo Hayashi for his roles in two fatal sarin attacks and an attempt to spread cyanide gas at JR Shinjuku Station.
Hayashi, 45, has been convicted of crimes that include murder and attempted murder in the March 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system, the June 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the May 1995 cyanide gas attempt at Shinjuku.
“Even if we were to take all circumstances into account, considering the gravity and cruelty of his deeds and the effect they had on society, the death sentence is the only choice,” presiding Judge Koshi Murakami said.
Eight people died on the subway line Hayashi was responsible for gassing.
Hayashi stood straight and did not move as the sentence was read out.
In June 2000, the Tokyo District Court sentenced him to death for dispersing sarin on the Hibiya Subway Line, building a vehicle to disperse the nerve gas in Matsumoto, and assisting in the foiled attack at Shinjuku. The subway attack killed 12 and injured more than 5,000. The Matsumoto attack killed seven and injured hundreds.
Hayashi’s defense team had argued that the punishment was too grave. They said Hayashi’s fear of cult founder Shoko Asahara forced him to commit the deeds.
Murakami acknowledged Hayashi’s fear of being severely punished, especially as he secretly did not believe some of Asahara’s doctrines and violated an Aum code by dating a female cultist, but said the sentence was determined by the extent of Hayashi’s involvement in the attacks.
“He was proactively involved, offering to pierce three bags of sarin with an umbrella instead of two like the others,” the judge said. “It was also Hayashi who had suggested that a getaway driver was needed for each member taking part in the attack.”
Murakami pointed to Hayashi’s self-centeredness, saying he and his girlfriend were on the run for 18 months after the subway attack until his arrest in December 1996.
The defense team also argued that Hayashi did not believe his conduct would lead to murder, and that the series of events should be considered as a rebellion to overthrow the government, as Asahara desired. But Murakami rejected this argument, saying Hayashi had “a clear intention to kill.”
As the trial closed, Hayashi, who was seated, looked up and bowed to cult members in the first row of the gallery.
Hayashi’s defense team has appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
“From the beginning, both the court and the prosecutors should have seen this as a rebellion against the government,” according to a statement by the defense team. “Then, the entire picture of Aum would have been much clearer. Although Hayashi is an assailant, he is in a way pitiable, as he was used by Asahara.”
Five cultists dispersed the gas in the subway. Four, including Hayashi, have been sentenced to death, and all four have appealed their sentences. The remaining cult member, former Aum doctor Ikuo Hayashi, received a life term because his swift confession and cooperation greatly contributed to Asahara’s arrest.
It was widely believed that Hayashi would receive the death penalty because eight people on his train died, the largest casualty count in the coordinated sarin attack on three subway lines.