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The defense counsel for Aum Shinrikyo defendant Kazuaki Okazaki, who is on trial for the murder of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and the attorney’s family, stressed during his final hearing Wednesday that the defendant gave himself up to authorities and that none of the facts surrounding the case would have surfaced without his confessions.

Earlier this month, prosecutors urged the Tokyo District Court to sentence Okazaki to death, making him the first Aum figure for which prosecutors sought the maximum penalty.

In April 1995, Okazaki confessed to being involved in the Sakamoto slayings. He and other Aum members are accused of killing Sakamoto, his wife and baby son in November 1989. Okazaki’s admission was the first in connection with the killings.

His confessions later helped lead police to where the victims were buried in separate mountain locations. Sakamoto had been active working for people with claims against the cult, including parents who wanted to get their offspring out of Aum, at the time he and his family disappeared from their apartment in November 1989.

But prosecutors maintained that Okazaki did not admit a direct involvement in the killings when he was first questioned by police in 1990, and that his attitude did not merit leniency from the gallows.

If the court interprets Okazaki’s admissions as “self-surrender,” there may be room for leniency.

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