TOKYO, March 29–(Kyodo) _ The Tokyo District Court sentenced four members of an AUM Shinrikyo cult splinter group called Keroyon to suspended prison terms Tuesday for concealing a fatal assault on a woman last September.
Junko Ikeno, 42, was given two years in prison, suspended for four years, and the other three were given prison terms of 18 or 20 months, suspended for three years.
Prosecutors had demanded that each of the four members, all former AUM members, receive a two-year prison term.
According to the ruling, the four decided to conceal the fatal assault by Yuko Kitazawa, the leader of Keroyon, and others of a 36-year-old woman, for fear that the group would receive strong criticism if the women’s death came to light.
The assault was reportedly part of an alleged spiritual training activity.
The four hid the woman’s body at Ikeno’s house last Sept. 11, according to the ruling.
Kitazawa, 40, is separately on trial on charges of fatal assault of the woman.
“The motive is self-centered, trying to preserve the group,” Presiding Judge Yoshimitsu Goda said. “They lied to the police and their criminal responsibility is grave.”
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 to distance itself from its criminal image. Senior AUM cadres have been convicted of a series of crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
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