Aum Shinrikyo spokesman Fumihiro Joyu was sentenced to three years in prison Mar. 24 for his role in covering up the cult’s illegal land purchase in Namino, Kumamoto Prefecture, in 1990.

Presiding Judge Hironobu Takezaki of the Tokyo District Court found Joyu, 34, guilty on charges of perjury and forgery of private documents that require seals, saying the defendant “covered up the truth by all means possible” and committed “an extremely malicious crime that distorts the criminal justice system.” Joyu, a high-profile Aum member who gained fame for his debating skills, represented the cult after the arrest of guru Shoko Asahara in May 1995 until his own arrest in October the same year. The boyish-looking Joyu also achieved celebrity status through his frequent TV appearances, and some young girls trailed him like he were a pop idol.

Following his arrest, Joyu confessed to his involvement in the illegal land deal. But during the trial, he remained silent on the charges and expressed his faith in Asahara. Joyu “has continued to avoid reality” and “has not shown a trace of regret” over his wrongdoings, Takezaki said.

The prosecution was seeking a five-year prison term. Takezaki said he decided on a lighter sentence considering the defendant’s initial confession to investigators and his lack of a criminal record. According to the court, Joyu conspired with cult lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama and forged documents to make it appear that Aum acquired property in Namino through a landowner’s donation instead of a business transaction. The cult bought the land in May 1990. Joyu also instructed Aum accountant Toshiro Shibata at that time to make false statements in court on the documents, the court added.

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