Harborer of Aum fugitive avoids jail

Kyodo

A Tokyo-area man was given a suspended prison sentence Thursday for harboring an Aum Shinrikyo fugitive wanted in connection with the cult’s murderous 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other deadly crimes.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Hiroto Takahashi, 41, to 18 months in prison, suspended for five years, for harboring Naoko Kikuchi, 40, before she was arrested in June after more than a decade and a half on the lam.

Presiding Judge Hiroko Kondo ruled that Takahashi “inflicted a great impact on the criminal justice system by harboring the wanted person allegedly involved in serious crimes for five years and three months.”

Takahashi, an interior decorator, gave shelter to Kikuchi from March 2007 to last June in several places in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture while aware that she was a fugitive, the court said.

The court said, however, that Takahashi didn’t deserve an actual prison sentence because he had no connection with Aum and because Kikuchi had already been on the run for around 10 years, using false identities, before he came to know her. Takahashi only found out about Kikuchi’s past when he asked her to marry him.