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Friday, June 1, 2007

Condemned Aum sarin maker loses first appeal


Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of an Aum Shinrikyo chemist who produced the sarin used in two of the cult's deadly nerve gas attacks.

In upholding the lower court verdict, presiding Judge Osamu Ikeda condemned Seiichi Endo, 46, for utilizing his virology expertise to create the nerve agent used in the terrorist attacks, including the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system that shocked the nation.

"The accused played a vital role in manufacturing sarin, which was used on the subways. He bears the same criminal responsibility as those who carried out the attacks," the judge said.

Endo, tieless in navy blue suit, took notes as the sentence was handed down, but made no statement in court.

According to the court, the doomsday cult's one-time chief chemist manufactured biochemical weapons that were used in the March 20, 1995, morning rush hour attack, which left 12 people dead and some 5,500 injured.

Endo was also found guilty in the murders of seven people in the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and of two counts of attempted murder with VX nerve agents used against an anti-Aum activist and a lawyer that year.

Endo's defense team had argued the death sentence meted out by the Tokyo District Court in 2002 was "too extreme a punishment" since their client was not directly involved in carrying out the attacks but merely in making the nerve gas.

While Ikeda acknowledged that the accused, who was pursuing a doctorate in virology at Kyoto University before joining the cult, was acting on orders from Aum founder Shoko Asahara, he rejected the defense allegation that Endo was brainwashed and should not be held liable for the crimes.

Shizue Takahashi, who lost her husband in the Tokyo attack, said she was "relieved" the ruling was upheld.

"The trials have continued for 13 years already but I am determined that we continue to voice our concerns," she said.

Of the 189 Aum members prosecuted for the cult's crimes, 13, including Endo, have been sentenced to hang.



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