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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Japan cultists sentenced to death
Toyoda and Hirose [R]
Toyoda and Hirose sentenced to hang
Two members of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult have been sentenced to death for their part in the deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

Twelve people were killed and thousands injured when the cult released Sarin nerve gas on several trains at the height of the rush hour.

Rescue workers
Rescue workers had to wear full chemical protection suits
Judge Manabu Yamazaki told Toru Toyoda, 32, and Kenichi Hirose, 36, he had no option but to impose the death penalty.

"It was mass murder resulting from blind faith in a self-righteous dogma, which leaves no room for excuse," Judge Yamazaki told the court.

"It was an act of indiscriminate terrorism unprecedented in criminal history because it was carried out in crowded trains."

Shoko Asahara
Shoko Asahara: Trial could last for years
Toyoda and Hirose were among five cult members who released nerve gas on the subway on 20 March 1995.

They carried the Sarin into the trains in plastic bags which they then punctured with umbrellas.

Another Aum member, Shigeo Sugimoto, 41, received a life sentence on Monday for driving a getaway car after the Sarin attack.

Parcel bomb

Both Toyoda and Hirose had admitted the charges against them, but argued in court that their minds had been controlled by cult leader Shoko Asahara.

Mr Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is still on trial for masterminding the assault and other crimes, including an earlier nerve gas attack in central Japan.

Sugimoto, getaway driver
Sugimoto, the getaway driver
In addition to the gassing, Toyoda has been charged with attempting to kill former Tokyo Governor Yukio Aoshima in May 1995 by mailing a parcel bomb to his office.

The package exploded when Mr Aoshima's secretary opened it, blowing off all his fingers on one hand.

Between 1994 and 1995, Toyoda, Hirose and Mr Asahara also allegedly planned to manufacture 1,000 automatic rifles modelled on the Russian-made AK-47, but succeeded in producing only one.


Thousands were injured
The two members sentenced to death at earlier hearings are Masato Yokoyama, 36, and Yasuo Hayashi, 42, who was dubbed a "murder machine" by the media.

A fifth Aum member who released gas on the train, 53-year-old Ikuo Hayashi, was sentenced to life in May 1998.

Earlier this year the Japanese Government passed a law to restrict the activities of the group, which has since changed its name and apologised for the gas attack.

The Japanese media reports that the group, now called Aleph, has begun recruiting once again and claims to have a membership of about 2,000.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Gas attacker sentenced to death
20 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cult apologises for death gas attack
01 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's computers hit by cult fears
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Stricter surveillance for Japanese cult
26 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
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18 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aum cult blames leader for gas attack
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese cult 'to compensate' victims
25 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese sect's nerve gas plant destroyed
01 Oct 98 | World
Sarin uncovered
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