A former Aum Shinrikyo cultist jailed for life last week for his role in the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system has appealed the sentence.
Lawyers for Katsuya Takahashi filed the appeal with the Tokyo High Court on Friday, a day after the Tokyo District Court rejected a plea for an acquittal. The defense team argued that the 57-year-old had not known that other cult members planned to release sarin in subway cars on March 20, 1995.
The court ruled Takahashi knew of the plan and acted as a driver for a senior cult member who released the deadly agent in the terror attack that killed 13 and left more than 6,000 people injured.
A defense lawyer said the court’s fact-finding process and the outcome were unacceptable, and that the defendant’s constitutional rights had been infringed upon by the court rejecting the team’s call to have cult founder Shoko Asahara testify as a witness. Asahara is considered to have masterminded the attack.
During the trial Takahashi described Asahara as “guru,” suggesting that he was still under the influence of the founder’s teachings. Asahara, 60, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on death row.
Captured in Tokyo in June 2012 after 17 years on the run, Takahashi was the last suspect on a special wanted list to remain at large.