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Prosecutors on Friday demanded capital punishment for a former fugitive and Aum Shinrikyo member for the March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands more. Yasuo Hayashi, 41, also stands accused of involvement in the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the foiled May 1995 cyanide attack at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. In a statement read before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Hayashi played a key role in the “indiscriminate mass murder” of the 1995 gassing and accused him of “cruel and merciless” acts. Although the defendant may have been trained to blindly obey cult founder Shoko Asahara, that could not be accepted as an excuse, they said. Hayashi sat motionless throughout the five-hour statement and deeply bowed to the judges as he left the court. Earlier in the week, prosecutors demanded the death sentence for two other former Aum followers, Toru Toyoda and Kenichi Hirose, who were involved in the subway gassing. In two other cases, Masato Yokoyama has received a death sentence for his part in the attack, and Ikuo Hayashi life imprisonment; Yokoyama is appealing his death sentence. According to prosecutors, Hayashi carried three plastic bags containing liquid sarin aboard a subway car on the Hibiya Line on the morning of March 20, 1995, and punctured them with the tip of an umbrella several times to spread the lethal gas. Eight people were killed and about 2,500 injured on the train. Hayashi also helped manufacture a device used to release sarin in the residential area of Matsumoto on June 27, 1994, prosecutors said. The incident left seven dead and injured more than 270 people. The prosecution also said Hayashi and four other Aum members placed bags of cyanide gas in a men’s bathroom at Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi Line on May 5, 1995, in a bid to distract police from their investigation of Asahara. A passerby reported the bags to station workers, who disposed of them without injury. In his first trial hearing in June 1997, Hayashi admitted to the facts in the indictment, but added that he could not refuse orders he believed were issued by Asahara. He said he was afraid Asahara might punish or even kill him if he refused. He also claimed he did not know the device he was manufacturing would be used to spray sarin. After 18 months on the run, Hayashi was arrested in December 1996 on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture, about 300 km southwest of the main island of Okinawa. Lawyers for the defense will deliver their final argument Feb. 28.

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