Aum’s Hayashi continues appeal of death sentence

Convicted killer Yasuo Hayashi appealed his death sentence to the Supreme Court after the Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld the punishment against the former member of Aum Shinrikyo.

Hayashi, 45, the former “minister of science and technology” in the cult, was sentenced in the Tokyo District Court in 2000 for his role in the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways that killed 12 people and made more than 5,500 others ill.

In upholding the lower court’s decision, Presiding Judge Koshi Murakami said: “The defendant released a large amount of sarin in the subway line he was in charge of, taking eight precious lives. He is gravely responsible.”

The court also found “(the defendant) actively participated in the attack. It cannot be said that he was coerced … from a strong sense of fear.”

The court noted Hayashi boarded the train March 20, 1995, carrying three plastic bags of liquid sarin-more of the nerve gas than any other cult members involved in the attack-and repeatedly punctured the bags with the point of an umbrella, releasing their deadly contents.

Attorneys for Hayashi insisted their client was simply following orders from Chizuo Matsumoto, the cult founder and self-styled guru also known as Shoko Asahara. They said Hayashi felt bound by fear and awe to obey.

They sought a lesser punishment, arguing that Matsumoto, 48, as the accused mastermind of the deadly attack, should be most heavily punished, not his lieutenants.

The court also considered the wishes expressed by families of victims of the attack and noted Hayashi managed to elude police for more than 18 months, hiding out with his lover, also a cult member, after being put on the wanted list in May 1995. He was arrested in Ishigakijima island in Okinawa Prefecture in December 1996.

Hayashi was also found guilty of abetting murder by helping to make a device to spray sarin in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in the summer of 1994, and attempted murder, by helping to set a cyanide gas device in a public toilet in Shinjuku Station.

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