Prosecutors demanded the death penalty Friday for Aum Shinrikyo figure Kiyohide Hayakawa over his alleged role in the November 1989 slaying of a Yokohama lawyer, the attorney’s wife and their baby son. Hayakawa, 50, once one of Aum founder Shoko Asahara’s closest aides, has also been charged with other crimes, including the lynching of errant cultist Shuji Taguchi and assisting Aum’s production of LSD and the nerve gas sarin. Reading a statement before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Hayakawa took an active role in killing lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto by pinning his legs while fellow cultist Kazuaki Okazaki strangled him. Hayakawa also took part in the killing of Sakamoto’s wife, Satoko, by taking turns with other cultists in strangling her, prosecutors said. The Sakamoto family was asleep when the cultists raided their apartment at 3 a.m., they said. Sakamoto, who was helping parents to retrieve their children from the cult and preparing a lawsuit against Aum, was seen as an obstacle to the cult. Prosecutors told the court that even though the defendant may have been acting on Asahara’s orders, the actions he and five other cultists took toward killing Sakamoto, his wife and their 1-year-old son, Tatsuhiko, were “brutal and inhuman” and cannot be pardoned. “The agony of the victims cannot be expressed in words,” their statement says. Hayakawa played a key role by instructing his five accomplices about how to carry out the slayings, prosecutors said, calling the crime “organized and well-planned in nature” and allowing no room for leniency. The brutal killings by the six men, even after Satoko Sakamoto begged for mercy for her son while she was on the verge of death, “raises our anger from the bottom of our hearts,” their statement says. Parents of the couple have said nothing can end their sorrow and anger, noting even the death penalty is not enough, prosecutors said. Okazaki was sentenced to death earlier by the district court for his role in the Sakamoto slayings, a ruling he has since appealed to the high court. In the lynching of Shuji Taguchi, who was trying to escape the cult, Hayakawa and two other cultists held his shoulders while cultist Tomomitsu Niimi strangled him, prosecutors alleged. Upon orders from Asahara, the four killed Taguchi because he had seen another cultist murdered and the cult feared he might make the incident public if he fled, prosecutors said. The motive is “very self-centered” and only considered the interest of the cult. “We can see no religious faith in the act,” their statement says, adding the cult “is simply a criminal organization.” Hayakawa has pleaded guilty to the murder and lynching charges against him. During court proceedings, he has expressed remorse for the victims, saying his actions were “unpardonable as a human being.” However, prosecutors dismissed the apology, stating “we can only see that as a ploy by him to get a reduced punishment.” Hayakawa’s lawyers will deliver their final argument March 17.
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