A victim of a VX gas attack allegedly committed by members of Aum Shinrikyo said Wednesday that senior cult member Tomomitsu Niimi, one of the six members believed to have been responsible, should receive the maximum punishment unless he repents.

“I met (Niimi) several times before the attack and saw how hard he was trying to discipline himself,” said Hiroyuki Nagaoka, who heads a group that helps former Aum members and their families break their ties with the cult. “If he still thinks (that he needs to discipline himself), he should display remorse, or else receive the severest sentence.”

Testifying before the Tokyo District Court in Niimi’s trial, Nagaoka outlined the Jan. 4, 1995, attack, in which he was surreptitiously sprayed with the nerve gas as he left his home in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

Niimi and a group of five Aum members, said to include Yoshihiro Inoue and Masami Tsuchiya, were also allegedly involved in the attack.

Nagaoka said he decided to help establish his group in October 1989 to rescue his son, who had joined the cult. But Aum followers began harassing him by making prank calls and tailing him by car, he said.

Nagaoka also blamed cult founder Shoko Asahara for encouraging some of his followers to commit crimes. “Whenever I attend the trials of Aum members and see them regret (their involvement in the cult), I always wish ‘if only Asahara didn’t exist,'” he said.

During the morning session, his wife, Eiko, testified for the prosecution and expressed her anger at the cult. “My husband looks fine now, in appearance, but he still suffers from terrible aftereffects. We set up the association to help cult members but now we feel angry at them — not to mention the cult itself — for putting us through a living hell.”

Niimi, 33, appeared in court with a triangular pattern of red, bruise-like marks on his forehead. He sat still during the testimony, keeping his eyes closed and occasionally chanting to himself.

Niimi has refused to enter a plea in eight of the Aum-related cases, including the killing of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, the March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, and the sarin attack in the city of Matsumoto.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.