Prosecutors demanded on Monday the death penalty for senior Aum Shinrikyo figure Masami Tsuchiya, who is accused of murder and helping the cult develop chemical weapons.
It has been nearly eight years since Tsuchiya’s trial began and he is the last of 192 defendants in cases related to the cult to have a sentence sought by prosecutors.
The Tokyo District Court is expected to hand down a ruling by the end of the year after the defense gives its final argument.
Prosecutors say Tsuchiya, 38, committed murder and attempted to commit murder in the deadly sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and on a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, the year before.
In February, he pleaded not guilty to six counts, after keeping silent since his trial began in November 1995. Following years of courtroom silence, he said in January he would change his stance in order to challenge prosecutors.
During Monday’s session, prosecutors said Tsuchiya manufactured such chemical weapons as sarin gas and used them in the crimes at the instruction of cult founder Shoko Asahara, who was trying to militarize the cult.
Tsuchiya admitted producing sarin and VX gas in the cult’s compounds but denied making them with Asahara. The guru, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is also on trial, accused of masterminding or ordering the various heinous Aum crimes.
Prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Asahara, 48, in April.
Tsuchiya denied being responsible for the March 20, 1995, subway gassing, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000 others, saying, “I have doubts about whether the sarin I produced was used.”
But prosecutors said he was involved in the production of the gas with the knowledge that it would be used to kill people indiscriminately.
On the June 27, 1994, Matsumoto gassing, which allegedly targeted members of the judiciary responsible for a civil suit involving Aum and left seven people dead and 144 injured, he claimed, “The liquid we dispersed did not contain sarin gas.”
However, prosecutors told the court that analysis of the substance confirmed it was sarin, and Tsuchiya was only trying to clear himself and Asahara.
Tsuchiya’s trial has been prolonged because he dismissed his lawyers twice. In an effort to accelerate court proceedings, he was not indicted on an additional four counts for which he was arrested.
Aum, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000, was placed under extended surveillance in January when the Public Security Examination Commission decided the Public Security Investigation Agency could monitor it for another three years, saying the cult is still capable of committing mass murder.