Tokyo high court upholds Aum doctor’s death sentence

by Jun Hongo

The Tokyo High Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of Aum Shinrikyo doctor Tomomasa Nakagawa for 24 murders, including 12 in the sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995.

Nakagawa was convicted on 11 counts. That number is second only to founder/guru Shoko Asahara, who was convicted on 13 charges. The Supreme Court finalized his death sentence last September.

In upholding the lower court verdict, presiding Judge Ritsuro Uemura said Nakagawa was deeply involved in “evil incidents on a historical scale.”

“The accused exploited his affluent medical and chemical expertise to conduct the crimes,” the judge said.

The 44-year-old Okayama Prefecture native and graduate of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine bowed deeply to the judges as the verdict was read out. He then sat with his eyes closed throughout the rest of the ruling, occasionally wiping away perspiration with a small blue towel.

The court said Nakagawa conspired with other cultists to commit murder in five occasions between 1989 and 1995.

The court ruled that the doctor, who made sarin for the cult, played a key role in the subway attack as well as the sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994 that killed seven people and injured 144.

Nakagawa was also convicted in the murders of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, the attorney’s wife and their 1-year-old son in November 1989 as well as Aum member Kotaro Ochida in January 1994. He was also found guilty in the murder of Tadahito Hamaguchi, whom cultists killed in December 1994, mistakenly thinking he was a spy.

Aum’s most notorious crime was the subway nerve gas attack during the weekday morning rush on March 20 1995. Sarin gas was released in several locations, killing 12 people and injuring thousands of others — many permanently.

Judge Uemura said his ruling stemmed from the nature of the attack, which he described as a “carefully planned crime of an extremely heinous nature.”

Nakagawa was also found guilty of kidnapping in the abduction of a notary public in Tokyo in 1995, and for several attempted murders using a number of different methods — sarin, VX gas and a letter bomb.

Nakagawa was arrested in May 1995. He pleaded guilty to murdering Sakamoto and his family and abducting the notary, but pleaded not guilty to the other charges.

Nakagawa’s lawyers say he was acting under orders of Asahara and the deaths were unintentional.

The defense team said it may file an appeal.