TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The death sentence for Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult who was convicted over a series of crimes committed by group members, has become final, judicial sources said Tuesday.
Tsuchiya's death sentence was finalized after the Supreme Court on Monday rejected Tsuchiya's objection to a top court decision last month that upheld lower court rulings.
Tsuchiya, 46, is the 11th AUM member to be sentenced to death.
Tsuchiya was convicted of involvement in six AUM-related criminal cases, including deadly sarin gas attacks in the mid-1990s.
The death sentence on AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has already been finalized.
In the Feb. 15 decision, the highest court rejected an appeal by Tsuchiya, saying he had played a key role in developing and producing the sarin nerve gas used in the attacks.
The ruling said Tsuchiya, in conspiracy with Asahara and senior cult members, released sarin gas in Tokyo subway cars in March 1995, killing 12 people and leaving 14 others seriously ill.
Tsuchiya was convicted over his role in another AUM sarin gas attack in a residential area of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994, which killed seven people and left many others ill. He was also convicted of killing a 28-year-old man in Osaka in December 1994 by releasing VX gas.
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, any defendant whose appeal has been rejected by the top court is allowed to file an objection with the highest court against its decision. But the objection is limited to technicalities such as an error in wording.
The Supreme Court has rarely accepted such objections.
Tsuchiya's Death sentence almost finalized
16th February, 2011
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down an appeal from Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult who was sentenced to death over a series of crimes committed by group members, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Tsuchiya, 46, will be the 11th Aum member to be on death row after the ruling is finalized following certain procedures. Two other appeals involving Seiichi Endo, 50, and Tomomasa Nakagawa, 48, are still pending at the top court after they were sentenced to death by lower courts.
Presiding Justice Kohei Nasu said in the ruling that the Aum crimes were heinous and that Tsuchiya, charged in the deaths of 13 people in six cases, played a key role in developing and producing the poisonous gas.
Tsuchiya, in conspiracy with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and senior cult members, released sarin gas in Tokyo subway cars in March 1995, killing 12 people, while also being involved in the murder of a 28-year-old man in Osaka in December 1994, according to the ruling.
Tsuchiya was also convicted over his role in another Aum sarin gas attack in a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994, which killed seven people and left many others ill.
The death sentence for Asahara, 55, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has already been finalized.
Top court to give decision on Aum chemist Tsuchiya on Feb 15
28th January, 2011
The Supreme Court will give its decision on Feb 15 on an appeal by Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior member of Aum Shinrikyo, against lower court rulings that sentenced him to death for his role in a series of crimes committed by cult members, including the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, judicial sources said Thursday.
In January 2004, the Tokyo District Court found Tsuchiya, 46, guilty of the series of crimes and sentenced him to death—a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in August 2006.
The top court’s five-justice third bench held a hearing on Tsuchiya’s appeal on Dec 21 last year.
At the hearing, Tsuchiya’s defense counsel called for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment, while prosecutors demanded that the highest court reject the appeal.
Lower court rulings found that Tsuchiya, in conspiracy with Aum founder Shoko Asahara and senior cult members, played a role in releasing sarin gas aboard trains on five subway lines in Tokyo on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and leaving a large number of people sick.
Tsuchiya was also convicted of playing a role in another Aum sarin attack in a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994, which killed eight people and sickened hundreds.
AUM founder Asahara, 55, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court on Feb 27, 2004, for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the Tokyo subway attack.
Asahara is on death row after the Tokyo High Court turned down his appeal in March 2006, saying his defense counsel had failed to submit in time documents clarifying the reasons for the appeal.
Tsuchiya was studying for a doctorate in chemistry at the state-run Tsukuba University when he became a live-in member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
Aum Shinrikyo, known as Aum Supreme Truth in English, renamed itself Aleph in 2000. In 2007, a senior member and some followers left Aleph to launch a splinter group called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light).