TITLE=JAPAN / AUM CULT
INTRO: A former member of the Aum Shinri Kyo
religious cult was sentenced to death Thursday.
Tanya Clark reports from Tokyo, 35-year old
Masato Yokoyama is the first person to receive
the death penalty for the 1995 Tokyo subway
attack that killed 12 people.
TEXT: Five Aum members were involved in the sarin
gas attack that led to a dozen deaths and
sickened thousands more. The cult has never
formally acknowledged its role in the 1995 subway
gassing, but the writings of the cult leader,
Shoko Asahara, indicate the goal appears to have
been to attack the heart of Tokyo and eventually
bring down Japan's government.
Masato Yokoyama, who was sentenced to death
Thursday, was not directly involved in any of the
murders. But this was only because the train on
which he spread gas ran above ground and had
better ventilation than in the subways, in which
all the victims died.
The court ruled nevertheless that Yokoyama's
criminal responsibility is so heavy that it had
no choice but to hand down the death penalty.
The court could have imposed a life sentence, as
occurred in the case of another Aum member, the
cult's Doctor. But Ikuo Hayashi, who was dubbed
Dr. Death by the media, cooperated fully with
investigators and indicated extreme remorse for
Yokoyama, on the other hand, has expressed no
remorse,remained silent during questioning and
refused to testify in court.
Aum has not been banned in Japan and has rebuilt
its membership to over two thousand. At the time
of the attacks membership was over ten thousand.
Citizens groups across Japan have been angrily
demanding cult members leave their areas.
Wednesday, in a rare news conference, a spokesman
for the cult said the group would close down many
branch offices and keep a much lower profile.
The statement came after police raided an Aum
Meanwhile, the trial of the cult's leader, Shoko
Asahara, continues. A decision in his case is
not expected for some time.
30-Sep-1999 05:30 AM EDT (30-Sep-1999 0930 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list