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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Seventh Japan cult killer to hang
Rescue workers
Thousands were injured in the Aum cult's subway attack
A former member of the Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, has been sentenced to death for murdering an anti-sect lawyer and his young family.


The crime was cruel and merciless with no morality

Judge Kaoru Kanayama
Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, and other cultists killed Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their baby in 1989 after creeping into their home and injecting them with potassium chloride.

Mr Sakamoto, one of Aum Shinrikyo's most vocal opponents, had been investigating the activities of the cult.

Shoko Asahara
Aum leader Shoko Asahara is still on trial
Hayakawa was also charged in connection with the Aum's nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 which left 12 dead and thousands injured.

He is the seventh Aum member to be sentenced to death for involvement in the Tokyo attack, and the third to receive the death penalty for the Sakamoto murders.

Cruel

The bodies of Mr and Mrs Sakamoto and their baby son were found buried in a mountainous area of central Japan after the subway attack.

Passing sentence, Tokyo court judge Kaoru Kanayama branded the crime "cruel and merciless with no morality".

Rescue workers
The gas attacks continue to haunt Japan
Hayakawa said he had only held the 33-year-old lawyer down while other cultists beat and throttled him.

But Judge Kanayama said Hayakawa had personally strangled Mr Sakamoto's 29-year-old wife as the couple begged them not to harm their one-year-old son.

He said the lawyer's murder "was based on the cult's philosophy that for the sake of its benefit, members should not hesitate to murder".

"There is no room for consideration for [Hayakawa's] evil conduct," he added.

The court also convicted Hayakawa of overseeing a factory to produce the sarin nerve gas unleashed in the Tokyo subway attack.

Cult leader

Another Aum member, Satoru Hashimoto, 33, was sentenced to death on Tuesday for his role in the Sakomoto murders and for a 1994 sarin attack in central Japan that killed seven people and injured scores more.

Aum cult leader Shoko Asahara is still on trial on 17 charges related to his role in the 1995 gas attack.

Executions in Japan are by hanging, but take place only rarely.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan cultists 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
26 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cult revival
18 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aum cult blames leader for gas attack
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese cult 'to compensate' victims
01 Oct 98 | World
Sarin uncovered
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