• Kyodo

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The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal filed by former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata against a nine-year prison sentence handed down by a lower court for his involvement in three crimes.

Hirata, 49, was found guilty in March last year after being charged with involvement in the kidnapping and confinement of a Tokyo notary clerk, the bombing of a Tokyo condominium and the firebombing of an Aum facility in 1995.

Hirata filed his appeal days after the Tokyo District Court handed down the ruling on the first Aum-related case tried by a panel of six lay judges in addition to three professional ones.

The defense team argued during the appeal trial that Hirata had “no prior knowledge” about the abduction and bombing plans. The team also said the court did not spend enough time examining evidence and witnesses as it gave “too much consideration” to the burden placed on the lay judges who tried the case.

Prosecutors demanded that the appeal be dismissed.

The focus of the trial at the district court was on whether Hirata had been aware of the criminal plans beforehand. The district court ruled that he “joined the group’s criminal acts with full awareness of them, and achieved his roles unfailingly.”

Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, died after being abducted and injected with an anesthetic drug by the group. Aum Shinrikyo shocked the nation with the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 and left more than 6,000 people injured.

Hirata turned himself in to police on Dec. 31, 2011, after 17 years on the run, hoping his action could delay the executions of death row inmates who were members of the group.

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