The Tokyo High Court on Thursday turned down an appeal by a former senior Aum Shinrikyo figure who was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the murder of one member and the cremation of another.

Toshiyasu Ouchi, the 50-year-old former head of the cult’s Russian branch, had appealed against the November 2000 Tokyo District Court conviction on the charge of conspiring with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and other cult members in the murder of a follower in 1989. Ouchi was also found guilty of illegally cremating the corpse of another follower who died on the cult’s property in 1993.

Ouchi’s defense had argued that he could not have “conspired” with Asahara, whose orders had absolute power within the cult. The lawyers also said that the stress generated by Asahara’s orders drove Ouchi insane.

The lawyers had claimed that Ouchi has no memory of standing guard as the murder took place. Even if Ouchi could remember, the lawyers said, he could not be considered an accomplice because his role did not directly contribute to the crime.

But presiding Judge Masaru Suda dismissed this argument, saying Ouchi consciously participated and fully accepted Asahara’s view that the murder was necessary to protect the cult.

In February 1989, senior Aum members, including Ouchi, decided to kill 21-year-old follower Shuji Taguchi because he wanted to leave the cult.

Acting under Asahara’s orders, senior cult members strangled Taguchi at the cult’s facility in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, while Ouchi stood guard.

In June 1993, Ouchi was involved in the cremation of the body of 25-year-old follower Naoki Ochi, who allegedly died during training at the cult facility.

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.