Niimi Tomomitsu

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death penalty for former senior Aum Shinrikyo member Tomomitsu Niimi for his role in 11 crimes, including the 1989 murder of a lawyer and his family and the deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Niimi, 45, will become the 10th person whose death sentence has been finalized over the series of crimes committed by the cult, along with Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 54, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

Appeals by three other former members, including Masami Tsuchiya, 45, against their death sentences are still pending.

Justice Takaharu Kondo said the crimes Niimi committed were "atrocious and inhumane" and the consequences of his actions "cannot be compared" with other crimes.

"The defendant's criminal responsibility is extremely heavy. A sentence of death is inevitable even though he was following Matsumoto's orders in carrying out these criminal acts," Kondo said.

According to lower court rulings, Niimi conspired with Asahara and other members to kill Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, an anti-Aum lawyer in Yokohama, and his family in 1989. He was also involved in a sarin gas attack in a residential area of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994 that left seven people dead, as well as the Tokyo subway attack that killed 12.

The courts also found that Niimi murdered four people, including Aum members, at the cult's facilities and on a street between 1989 and 1994.