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A former senior Aum Shinrikyo member was sentenced Sept. 17 to 14 years in prison for designing a nerve gas laboratory and building the spraying device used in the June 1994 nerve gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

According to the Tokyo District Court ruling, Kazumi Watabe, 38, helped kill seven people and injure 144 others in the Matsumoto attack by designing a machine to spray sarin nerve gas. Between November 1993 and December 1994, Watabe plotted to murder an unspecified number of people by designing a laboratory to produce intermediate chemicals to synthesize sarin, the ruling said.

“(Watabe) played a central role in creating the spraying machine used in the Matsumoto incident, and his responsibility is the heaviest among those who helped (carry out the murders),” said presiding Judge Toshikazu Obuchi. The ruling determined that Watabe committed the crimes on the instructions of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

In court, Watabe had admitted he was involved in designing the sarin laboratory and the device used in the Matsumoto attack but pleaded not guilty in both cases. He claimed he did not know what the spray device would be used for and that designing the laboratory did not constitute plotting to carry out murder.

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