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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 06:45 GMT 07:45 UK
Japan cult death sentence upheld
Rescue workers at scene of 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo
The gas attack killed 12 and left thousands ill
A court has upheld the death sentence for a Japanese chemist who oversaw the development of nerve gas used in a 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway.

Masami Tsuchiya, 41, was sentenced to death in January 2004 for his role in the attacks, which killed 12 people.

Prosecutors said he was the second most important person in the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was behind the attack, after leader Shoko Asahara.

Asahara was sentenced to death in February 2004.

Chemist

The Tokyo High Court said Tsuchiya, who was studying for a doctorate in chemistry, played in a key role in the cult's drive to develop chemical weapons including VX, mustard and sarin gases.

Aum Shinrikyo
Renamed Aleph and claims it is now benign
Has about 1,000 lay followers and 650 followers in cult communes
Predicted an apocalypse that only cult members would survive

"The Aum-related crimes, such as the sarin gas attack, could not have taken place without him, and he was at the centre of the crimes," Kyodo news agency quoted Judge Yu Shiraki as saying.

Tsuchiya was also convicted of producing sarin gas for a July 1994 attack on a residential area in the central city of Matsumoto, which killed seven people and injured 144 others.

The Tokyo subway attacks shocked the Japanese public.

Judicial proceedings against the accused have gone on for years, complicated by lengthy witness testimony and replacements to the legal teams.

Altogether, 12 cult members have been sentenced to death, but none of the sentences have yet been carried out.

The cult changed its name to Aleph in 2000 and has renounced violence, but is still heavily monitored by police.




SEE ALSO
Japan Aum leader appeal rejected
27 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Death penalty for Japan cult guru
27 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Death for Japan cult member
29 Oct 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Rise of Japanese cults
14 May 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan warning on doomsday cult
11 Apr 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Cult leader trial resumes in Japan
23 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Death sentence on Aum leader upheld
13 Dec 01 |  Asia-Pacific

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