Tokyo, 16 March (Kyodo): A former senior member of the cult formerly called AUM Shinrikyo appealed Thursday a high court’s decision that upheld the death sentence handed down against him for his involvement in a series of crimes including the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, his defence lawyers said.
The lawyers claim that capital punishment is too heavy for Tomomitsu Niimi, 42, saying he was the most loyal apprentice to AUM founder Shoko Asahara and had no option but to follow his instructions.
The Tokyo High Court upheld Wednesday a district court’s death penalty against Niimi, with the presiding judge saying the defendant had not been put in any extreme circumstances.
Niimi was the only follower of Asahara to have been charged in all seven murder cases in which the cult was involved.
Niimi was found guilty of conspiring with Asahara and other AUM members to release the toxic gas on five subway trains in Tokyo on 20 March 1995, in an attack that left 12 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.
He was also involved in spraying sarin on 27 June 1994, in a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which killed seven people and seriously injured four others, as well as the 4 November 1989, murders of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their 1- year-old son in Yokohama, the court said.
The cult has renamed itself Aleph.