Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Cult member may face hanging
Twelve died in the gas attack in Tokyo in 1995
By Tokyo Correspondent Juliet Hindell
A member of the Aum Doomsday Cult could face the death penalty after prosecution lawyers recommended it at his trial.
Masato Yokoyama is one of the many cult members on trial for his part in the sarin gas attack, which killed 12 and injured thousands more on Tokyo commuter trains in 1995.
Masato Yokoyama is accused of releasing sarin nerve gas on an underground train.
As no one on the train he was riding was killed, the decision to ask for the death penalty is surprising.
But lawyers said that did not mitigate the fact that he had taken an active role in the fatal attack.
If he were convicted he would face hanging. About five people are executed in Japan each year.
Fear of Aum growing
The Japanese government has become increasingly concerned recently that Aum may be regaining its former strength.
A government committee met on Monday to discuss how to crack down on the cult.
A panel of experts ruled in 1997 that Aum no longer posed a threat to society and therefore the law could not be used.
The government is now considering revising the law so that it can be invoked against Aum.
In recent weeks several of Aum's sites, including computer shops, have been raided by the police.
Aum is known to be actively recruiting and raising funds through its computer sales. However, the cult says it is the victim of religious suppression.