Failed appeal keeps cult’s subway gas killers on Death Row

Two AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult members who let loose lethal sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, killing 12 and sickening thousands, will remain on Death Row after the Tokyo High Court rejected their appeals on Wednesday.

Presiding Judge Shingo Takahashi threw out appeals against the death sentences the Tokyo District Court had handed to AUM cultists Kenichi Hirose and Toru Toyoda, condemning them to the gallows for letting loose the deadly sarin gas.

Sugimoto also upheld a life sentence handed out to Shigeo Sugimoto, who drove the getaway car for the cultists who gassed the subway system.

“Your crimes were among the vilest and extremist in history. You blindly obeyed the orders of your guru and acted with only the interests of the cult and guru in mind,” Takahashi told all three defendants as he read out the ruling. “Even giving great consideration to the deep remorse you have expressed, the penalty handed out by the district court cannot be considered harsh.”

So far, eight AUM members have received the death sentence for their part in the series of crimes perpetrated by the cult.

Lawyers for the 36-year-old Toyoda and 40-year-old Hirose had argued during their district court trial that the pair had been brainwashed by cult guru, Shoko Asahara, who is also on Death Row for masterminding the attack. The court, however, ruled that the pair had acted of their own will and condemned them to death. They appealed against the sentence.

Sugimoto, meanwhile, had argued that he was little more than an accessory to the gas attacks and that a life sentence was too harsh. But the court ruled that he had been an active and vital cog in the AUM killing machine, a view on which the high court concurred.

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