TOKYO, May 14 (Kyodo) — The Tokyo High Court upheld Friday a death sentence imposed on former senior AUM Shinrikyo member Kiyohide Hayakawa for crimes including the murders of a lawyer and his family and of an AUM member who wanted to leave the cult.
Hayakawa, 54, pleaded guilty in all seven cases in which he was charged, which also included building a plant in Yamanashi Prefecture to mass-produce the nerve gas sarin used in the 1995 fatal attack on the Tokyo subway system.
In handing down his decision on the appeal, Presiding Judge Taketaka Nakagawa dismissed Hayakawa’s claim that he was brainwashed by the sect’s founder, Shoko Asahara, to commit the crime, saying a death sentence for Hayakawa is ”unavoidable” given his own responsibility for the crimes.
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Despite the fact that Hayakawa has owned up to the charges and expressed regret, and that Asahara is the main culprit, Nakagawa said, ”The defendant’s criminal responsibility is extremely big, and the entire responsibility cannot be thrown to the cult leader.”
Hayakawa appealed the death sentence imposed on him July 28, 2000, by the Tokyo District Court. In making the appeal, a lawyer for Hayakawa said the defendant was ”not in a position to direct the crimes” and was furthermore ”in a state of diminished responsibility due to the group’s training and could not reject the order from the group’s leader.”
Hayakawa and Asahara are among 12 people sentenced to death for a series of crimes involving AUM. Hayakawa is the fifth person whose death sentence has been upheld by the high court.
Hayakawa’s lawyers immediately appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
The district court found Hayakawa guilty of conspiring with Asahara and other AUM members to murder lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife Satoko, 29, and their 1-year-old son Tatsuhiko at their home in Yokohama in November 1989.
Sakamoto was the leader of a group of lawyers working for the families of people who had joined AUM. The families wanted their relatives returned to them.
Hayakawa was also found guilty of strangling AUM member Shuji Taguchi, 21, who wanted to quit the group. That murder took place in February 1989.
In addition, he was convicted of supervising the construction of a sarin factory at an AUM facility in Yamanashi Prefecture between 1993 and 1994, the ruling said.
Sarin gas was used in the 1994 attack in a residential district in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system. The two crimes killed 19 people and injured thousands.
In Friday’s court decision, Nakagawa rejected the lawyers’ argument that Hayakawa was not a key figure in the Sakamotos’ murder since Hayakawa was ”directly instructed” by Asahara and ”took the lead” in the crime.
The judge said Hayakawa was ”not in a state of diminished responsibility” as claimed by the lawyers, and independently made his decision not to refuse Asahara’s order.
Shotaro Tochigi, deputy prosecutor of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, praised the decision as ”appropriate,” while Hayakawa’s lawyers said the court did not see the reality in which Asahara’s instructions carried ”overwhelming weight” within the cult.
Satoko’s father, Tomoyuki Oyama, meanwhile, urged Hayakawa not to appeal the high court’s decision if the defendant really had ”remorse” for his crimes.
Hayakawa joined AUM in 1986 and was one of its longest-serving members. He was dubbed ”construction minister” within the cult.
Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death on Feb. 27 by the Tokyo District Court. His defense counsel has appealed the ruling to the Tokyo High Court.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.