Sep 8, 2016

Life sentence upheld for last Aum Shinrikyo sect leader

MOSCOW, September 7 (RAPSI) - The Tokyo High Court has upheld a lower court’s ruling to sentence the last of the three principal Aum Shinrikyo sect leaders, Katsuya Takahashi, who escaped justice for 17 years, to life in prison, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.

Takahashi has been charged with murder in the cult’s deadly sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo metro on March 20, 1995, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000 others.  He also was accused of with other crimes connected with production of nerve gas VX and murder of sect undesirables. He pleaded not guilty. His defense insisted that Takahashi knew nothing about the essence of crimes prepared by the organization.

He was arrested in Tokyo on June 15, 2012. Another sect leader, Makoto Hirata, surrendered himself to the police at 11.50 PM on December 31, 2011, and Naoko Kikuchi was arrested on June 3, 2012. Hirata has been sentenced to nine years in prison and Kikuchi to five years.

Katsuya Takahashi joined the sect at its inception and served in the defense and intelligence department. He is believed to have been directly involved in preparations of the poison gas attack in the Tokyo metro in 1995, the murder of “undesirable” people and experiments with the VX nerve gas. In all, he has been charged on five counts.

Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) was set up in 1987 by Chizuo Matsumoto (aka Shoko Asahara). It combined Buddhist and Hindu meditation practices and apocalyptic teachings and was believed to have between 30,000 and 50,000 followers, with more than 10,000 members in Russia, where Aum was engaged in missionary activity and economic enterprise. The sect was banned worldwide in 1995, with Russia leading the crackdown.

In 1994, Aum Shinrikyo members dispersed sarin gas in Matsumoto, Nagano, killing seven people. After the March '95 attack on Tokyo, police arrested about 30 of the sect leaders, some of whom, including Shoko Asahara, were sentenced to death.

Now operating under the name of Aleph, the cult is still in business and is believed to have between 1,000 and 2,000 members in Japan.

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