Prosecutors demanded the death penalty for two former Aum Shinrikyo followers Tuesday for carrying out the March 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The two are also charged with illegally manufacturing firearms. Kenichi Hirose, 35, and Toru Toyoda, 31, stand accused of releasing sarin on subway trains during the morning rush hour in an attempt to avert the attention of investigative authorities from Aum. The gassing killed 12 people and injured more than 5,500. The prosecution also demanded life in prison for Shigeo Sugimoto, 40, for chauffeuring one of the gas-attackers to a train station and for his involvement in the killing of followers in January and July 1994. “Since the criminal liability of Toyoda and Hirose is so grave, I can only ask for the ultimate punishment,” a prosecutor said. The prosecutors said they did not ask for capital punishment for Sugimoto because he took part in the gassing as a driver and because he owned up to the 1994 killings of two followers. According to the prosecutors, Hirose released sarin under the order of cult founder Shoko Asahara on the Marunouchi Line near Ochanomizu Station on March 20, 1995, leaving one dead and injuring about 350 people. Toyoda pierced two plastic bags containing sarin with an umbrella on a Hibiya Line train near Ebisu Station, killing one and injuring more than 500 people, they said. Sugimoto chauffeured Yasuo Hayashi to Ueno Station, where Hayashi boarded a Hibiya Line train to release sarin, the prosecution said. Hayashi’s release killed eight people. Hirose, a graduate of Waseda University, and Toyoda also joined in the cult’s attempt to manufacture 1,000 rifles between June 1994 and March 1995. Only one rifle was produced. In addition, Toyoda, who received a master’s degree in physics at Tokyo University, took part in the May 1995 cyanide gas attack at Shinjuku Station by producing the gas, prosecutors said. After that attack failed, Toyoda and other members sent a letter bomb to then-Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima later in the month, they said. The bomb tore off the fingers of the governor’s secretary. Prosecutors added that Sugimoto lynched and strangled to death his fellow follower Toshio Tomita in July 1994 and cremated his body in a microwave incinerator. He also gave his approval when Asahara asked Sugimoto and other members whether to kill Kotaro Ochida, a former follower of Aum, in January 1994, they said. During their opening hearing in December 1995, Hirose and Toyoda owned up to the charges against them while Sugimoto claimed he was only obeying orders and had no intention of committing murder. Lawyers for the defense will deliver their final argument on March 2.
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