The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a senior Aum Shinrikyo member’s life sentence for his involvement in the deadly 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Noboru Nakamura, 36. Both they and Nakamura appealed the life sentence handed down by the Tokyo District Court in May 2001.

Presiding Judge Atsushi Semba said, “His guilt for following the cult founder’s wishes and readily committing the heinous crime is significant, but we hesitate to give the death sentence because he played a subordinate role.”

During the appeals trial, the prosecutors argued that Nakamura should be executed because he committed the crime with a firm intent to kill.

But Nakamura’s lawyers, who claimed he had not intended to kill and is now repentant, called for a sentence with a fixed term.

The district court ruled that Nakamura conspired with Aum founder Shoko Asahara to release the nerve gas in Matsumoto in June 1994. The attack killed seven people and injured scores of others.

The lower court said Nakamura built a nerve gas plant in the cult’s complex in Yamanashi Prefecture between 1993 and 1994 and produced sarin there.

Separate from the sarin attack, Nakamura was also found guilty of using a rope to strangle Aum follower Toshio Tomita, 27, at the same Aum facility in July 1994.

Nakamura was also found guilty of abducting and confining Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, on Feb. 28, 1995. Kariya died the following day, allegedly from an overdose of an anesthetic that he was given as a truth serum.

Prosecutors have demanded capital punishment for 14 Aum figures at the district court level, and so far nine of them have been sentenced to hang.

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.