March 19, 2009

Court dismisses retrial request for AUM founder Asahara

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The Tokyo District Court has dismissed a request for a retrial of AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, who was sentenced to death for crimes including the deadly sarin gassing of Tokyo's subway system in 1995.

Lawyers for Asahara, 54, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had provided testimony by former AUM executive Seiichi Endo, 48, who denied that Asahara was involved in the subway gassing. However, the court dismissed the credibility of the testimony.

"Endo has left no doubt that he is devoted to the condemned (Asahara)," the ruling said.

The request for a retrial was made in November last year by Asahara's second daughter.

In an appeal against his own sentencing in March 2006, Endo testified that senior AUM member Hideo Murai, now deceased, had masterminded the attack.

Lawyers claimed that Endo's testimony constituted new evidence that overturned the fixed ruling against Asahara which accepted that he had ordered the attacks. But the Tokyo District Court turned down the request for an appeal, saying, "The fixed ruling is based on clear circumstances and facts drawn from the evidence, and it accepts his involvement."

Asahara was tried for murder over a series of crimes involving AUM, which has changed its name to Aleph, and was sentenced to death in a ruling in the Tokyo District Court in February 2004. His lawyers failed to submit appeal documents within the specified time frame, saying they were unable to communicate with Asahara, and the Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal against the death sentence in March 2006. The Supreme Court turned down a special appeal in September that year, fixing the death penalty.
(Mainichi Japan) March 19, 2009

TOKYO — The 14th anniversary of the Aum Shinrikyo cult’s deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attacks was marked Friday in a ceremony at the Tokyo subway’s Kasumigaseki Station. A moment of silence was observed by 24 Tokyo Metro Co employees at the station at 8 a.m., around the same time that the attacks occurred, with a metro official laying flowers at an alter set up in the station.

The official, Noboru Ueno, said during the ceremony, ‘‘We cannot forget that day,’’ pledging that subway workers will continue safety efforts to honor those lost in the incident. On March 20, 1995, senior members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, now known as Aleph, released sarin at five stations on three central Tokyo subway lines. The attacks took the lives of 12 people, including two subway workers at Kasumigaseki Station in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, and sickened more than 5,500 others.

Shizue Takahashi, the 62-year-old widow of one of the two workers at Kasumigaseki Station, visited the station and said, ‘‘We should not allow the case to be forgotten and take place again. Although 14 years have passed, I would like to continue talking about the incident.’’

Here are a couple of videos on the cult.

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