Sufferers of AUM attacks await Asahara’s trial

Victims of the AUM Shinrikyo cult’s sarin gas attacks on Tokyo’s subway systems have come to the end of their wait for sentencing of the cult’s founder Shoko Asahara.

On Friday the Tokyo District Court will hand down a ruling on Asahara, who is accused of masterminding the 1995 attacks that killed 12 people and injured thousands of others.

Takako Iwata was one of those who died in the gassing at the age of 33. “A ruling is finally going to come out,” her 72-year-old father and 65-year-old mother said as they stood in front of her grave on Feb 14. They have long felt injustice over the case.

“The defendant is given food, shelter and clothing, and his lawyers’ fees cost hundreds of millions of yen. When compared to the bereaved family of the victims, who have no compensation at all, it’s unfair any way you look at it,” one of Iwata’s parents said. “We don’t think there is any meaning in taking time over the trial.”

Both of her parents stopped working one or two years after the attacks carried out by members of the cult, which later changed its name to Aleph, because of the anxiety they suffered. Her mother, Kiyoe, later suffered an autonomic imbalance as her condition worsened.

On the second floor of their home a photograph of Iawata stands inside the family altar. They say not a day goes by without them talking about her.

Yoshiyuki Kono, the first person to report the AUM attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994 has also suffered. His 55-year-old wife Sumiko who was injured in the incident has been bedridden for almost a decade since.

In November last year Sumiko’s condition worsened, and she nearly choked to death. Kono was prepared for her death and phoned his children, telling them to see her off with gratefulness for what she had done. Although she is still alive, their thoughts have not changed.

Kono constantly talks to his wife as he looks after her, although she cannot reply. “You’ve got some sleep in your eye,” he tells her. “Let me wipe it out for you.” He combs his wife’s hair and gives her massages. “In terms of treatment, there’s nothing else that can be done,” doctors tell him.

“When I talk about the family and subjects that are pleasant to her, her eyes light up and she moves her mouth,” Kono says. But when he talks about the trial there is little response. “I think she probably doesn’t understand,” he says.

Kono, who initially came under suspicion after he reported the sarin attacks in Matsumoto, said he has decided not to show his anger until a sentence on Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is determined.

Others have shown less sympathy. “I want him to get eight death sentences, said Shizue Takahashi, a 57-year-old representative of a group of sufferers from the subway gassings.

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Mainichi Daily News
Feb. 26, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 26, 2004.
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