Top court dismisses AUM member’s appeal against death sentence

The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down an appeal by a former AUM Shinrikyo cult member, finalizing his death sentence for murdering a lawyer’s family and a fellow cult member.

The top court said Kazuaki Okazaki, 44, committed “anti-social, cruel crimes” in murdering the family of a lawyer who acted legitimately.

In the late 1980s lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto regularly criticized AUM Shinrikyo and this infuriated the group. Okazaki and other cult members stormed into the apartment of Tsutsumi in Yokohama in November 1989 and murdered the 33-year-old lawyer, his wife, 29, and their 1-year-old son.

Okazaki also strangled AUM member Shuji Taguchi, 21, who was trying to leave the group, at a cult facility in Shizuoka Prefecture in February 1989, according to lower court rulings.

Lawyers for Okazaki had said that his admission in 1995 to involvement in the murder of the lawyer’s family was equivalent to turning himself in, a condition for a lenient ruling.

But three judges at the Supreme Court’s first petty branch agreed that Okazaki should not be spared capital punishment even after considering his admission to the murder and the fact that he is now regretting his actions.

As reasons for dismissing the appeal, the judges cited that Okazaki committed his crimes to protect AUM, that he tried to cover up the murder of the lawyer’s family by burying the victims’ bodies, and that he was directly involved in the murders.

“Considering the sentiments of the bereaved families and the shock the crimes caused society, his criminal responsibility is very grave,” the court said.

After being adopted by a Zen Buddhist in June 2004, Okazaki changed his surname to Miyamae. He reportedly chants Buddhist sutras several times a day before the posthumous Buddhist nameplates of the lawyer’s family he placed on the wall of his cell.

Okazaki expressed his regret in letters he sent to the Mainichi and other media organizations.

But bereaved family members are pessimistic about Okazaki’s remorse.

“I think he only expresses words of remorse because he is cunning,” said Tomoyuki Oyama, father of the lawyer’s wife. “The entire picture (of the lawyer’s case) has not yet been clarified in the trial so I have been disappointed.”

AUM Shinrikyo was founded by Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. AUM now calls itself Aleph.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Mainichi Shimbun, Japan
Apr. 7, 2005

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6:00 PM, Central European Time (CET)