Death penalty on AUM’s Nakagawa upheld at high court

(Kyodo News Service, Japan) — The Tokyo High Court upheld Friday a lower court’s death sentence against former senior AUM Shinrikyo member Tomomasa Nakagawa who was convicted of involvement in the killings of 25 people in various criminal cases from 1989 to 1995, including the cult‘s sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway and in Nagano Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Ritsuro Uemura, in turning down an appeal from Nakagawa, 44, a former physician, said the three-judge panel “has found no particular reason to refrain from the death penalty…in light of such ultimately heinous crimes that saw the number of victims reach as many as 25, even though the defendant has shown remorse and offered an apology.”

“There is no doubt that the defendant can be held liable” for the crimes, the judge said, rejecting the defense’s argument that Nakagawa was in mental disarray and was merely manipulated by AUM founder Shoko Asahara whose presence was overwhelming within the cult group.

The judge also accused Nakagawa of “actively participating” in the nerve gas attacks “while being well aware that sarin is a poisonous substance that would produce an extremely tragic outcome.”

In October 2003, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Nakagawa to death. He was convicted of his involvement in the Tokyo subway gas attack on March 20, 1995, that killed 12 people and injured thousands, and of being involved in an earlier gassing that killed seven people in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on June 27, 1994.

He was also found guilty of his involvement in the November 1989 murder of Yokohama-based anti-AUM lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their son.

In the three major criminal cases, Nakagawa was found to be one of the actual perpetrators.

Nakagawa was the last to receive a high court decision, among the 13 AUM members who had been sentenced to death by the district court.

All the death sentences on the 13 were upheld at the high court level.

Of the 13, excluding Nakagawa, 10 have appealed to the Supreme Court. The death sentences on AUM founder Asahara and former senior member Kazuaki Okazaki have been finalized.

Nakagawa, found guilty of all criminal counts involving 11 criminal cases, ranks second to Asahara in terms of the number of criminal cases in which he was involved. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was implicated in 13 criminal cases.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Nakagawa.

Nakagawa, who joined the AUM Shinrikyo cult in 1988 when he was a student at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, had served as Asahara’s primary physician.

AUM founder Asahara, 52, was sentenced to death at the Tokyo District Court in February 2004, after being found to have masterminded the AUM-related crimes, including the two waves of sarin gas attacks.

In March 2006, the Tokyo High Court turned down an appeal from his defense lawyers who failed to submit by the court-set Aug. 31, 2005 deadline a written document giving the reason for the appeal.

His defense lawyers had asked the high court to suspend the trial and extend the deadline, saying they could not establish meaningful communication with the defendant, who they claim is not competent to stand trial.

In September that year, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal filed by the defense, finalizing the death sentence against Asahara.

AUM renamed itself Aleph in 2000. In May this year, followers of former AUM Shinrikyo spokesman Fumihiro Joyu organized a splinter group, called “Hikari no Wa” (circle of light).

The Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency, which watches suspected subversive groups, has kept tabs on both Aleph and Joyu.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday July 13, 2007.
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