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DATE=9/30/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=JAPAN / AUM CULT NUMBER=2-254493 BYLINE=TANYA CLARK DATELINE=TOKYO CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 his actions. 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 facility. Meanwhile, the trial of the cult's leader, Shoko Asahara, continues. A decision in his case is not expected for some time. NEB/TC/FC 30-Sep-1999 05:30 AM EDT (30-Sep-1999 0930 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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