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Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006

Aum sarin maker's death penalty upheld


Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of Aum Shinrikyo chemist Masami Tsuchiya for his role in making sarin for two deadly nerve gas attacks.

News photo
Masami Tsuchiya KYODO PHOTO

Tsuchiya, 41, was tried on six counts, including producing the sarin used in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500.

Tsuchiya did not attend the high court sessions, which began in November, and wasn't present for Friday's ruling.

In upholding the 2004 lower court verdict, presiding Judge Yu Shiraki condemned the cultist for using his chemical expertise to make deadly nerve gases, and said the defendant deserved to hang even though he did not participate in the actual attacks.

"There are no reasons to consider any other option than the death penalty," Shiraki said.

Tsuchiya's lawyers had argued that other cultists learned how to make sarin from Tsuchiya, and it was possible they made the gas used in the attacks.

"The defendant created sarin because leaders of the group ordered him to do so, and he was not aware of any of the (attacks)," Tsuchiya's lawyers claimed in their concluding statement.

But Shiraki dismissed that argument, saying Tsuchiya surely was aware that the chemicals he was synthesizing would be used to kill.

The judge added that the cult's "heinous crimes" would not have been possible without Tsuchiya's assistance.

Tsuchiya is guilty of five other crimes: making sarin for the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, that killed seven people, making VX gas used in three attacks, in 1994 and 1995, one of them fatal, and the making of PCP, an illegal hallucinogen.

Tsuchiya, who maintained his allegiance to guru Shoko Asahara, occasionally used abusive language in his district court trial.

But he chose not to attend any of the high court sessions and has refused to meet with his attorneys. His lawyers said they would consider a further appeal.

Prosecutors, who called Tsuchiya a "homicidal chemist who sold his soul to the devil," released a statement calling his sentence a "fair and appropriate judgment."

More than 100 people had lined up in front of the courthouse by 9:30 a.m. for the 35 public gallery seats. Security checks at the courthouse door were intensified.

Of the 189 Aum members convicted in connection to crimes tied to the cult, 13, including Tsuchiya, have been sentenced to hang.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to hang by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004. The Tokyo High Court rejected his appeal, saying his lawyers failed to submit a statement giving a reason for the appeal. His lawyers filed a special appeal with the Supreme Court in June.



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