Top AUM member’s appeal against death sentence dismissed

An appeal by a former top AUM Shinrikyo member who was sentenced to death for the murder of a lawyer’s family and six other crimes, was dismissed on Friday.

Kiyohide Hayakawa, 54, played a leading role in AUM’s murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family in November 1989 and Shuji Taguchi, a member of the cult who tried to quit in February that year.

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In the case of Kiyohide Hayakawa, who was convicted of playing a role in the 1989 murders of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and errant cultist Shuji Taguchi, the Tokyo District Court determined the accused was in a “state of absolute obedience to the guru, in which it was unthinkable to refuse his orders.” But Hayakawa was nonetheless sentenced to hang. The judge noted, “It is very common in organized crimes that a member of a lower rank blindly follows the orders of his senior, and that does not lessen his criminal responsibility.”
- Mind control may have been a factor but not a mitigating one

“Those crimes were serious, and he, a top member, is gravely responsible,” said Taketaka Nakagawa of the Tokyo High Court when he upheld a lower court decision that sentenced Hayakawa to death in July 2000. “The lower court’s ruling was not too severe.”

The high court dismissed the claim by Hayakawa’s defense lawyers that he acted only passively in the high-profile murder of lawyer Sakamoto, his wife and their child.

“Upon the instructions of (AUM guru) Shoko Asahara, he played a leading role, ordering other members to go to the lawyer’s house and telling them to destroy evidence,” said Presiding Judge Nakagawa.

Tomoyuki Oyama, father of Sakamoto’s wife, said after the ruling, “Whatever the punishment, our grief will not disappear…Defendant Hayakawa should not appeal the high court ruling.”

But Hayakawa’s lawyers immediately appealed. As for the murder of Taguchi, the lawyers claimed that Hayakawa was less responsible than other AUM members because he tried to persuade the member to stay in the cult so that he would not be killed.

But Judge Nakagawa also dismissed the claim, saying it would not affect the ruling.

A total of 12 members, including Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, have been sentenced to death at district court level. Hayakawa is the fifth cult member to have their appeal against capital punishment dismissed at high court level.

AUM now calls itself Aleph.

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