Trial of last Aum Shinrikyo sect leader begins in Tokyo
MOSCOW, January 16 (RAPSI) – The trial of the last of the three principal Aum Shinrikyo sect leaders, Katsuya Takahashi, who escaped justice for 17 years, has begun in a Tokyo district court, RIA Novosti reports on Friday.
Takahashi, 56, is charged with murder in the cult’s deadly sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo metro on March 20, 1995, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000 others.
He was arrested in Tokyo on June 15, 2012. Another sect leader, Makoto Hirata, surrendered himself to the police at 11.50 PM on December 31, 2011, and Naoko Kikuchi was arrested on June 3, 2012. Hirata has been sentenced to nine years in prison and Kikuchi to five years. Takahashi may face a death penalty if found guilty. A verdict in his case is expected to be delivered in late April.
Katsuya Takahashi joined the sect at its inception and served in the defense and intelligence department. He is believed to have been directly involved in preparations of the poison gas attack in the Tokyo metro in 1995, the murder of “undesirable” people and experiments with the VX nerve gas. In all, he has been charged on five counts.
Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) was set up in 1987 by Chizuo Matsumoto (aka Shoko Asahara). It combined Buddhist and Hindu meditation practices and apocalyptic teachings and was believed to have between 30,000 and 50,000 followers, with more than 10,000 members in Russia, where Aum was engaged in missionary activity and economic enterprise. The sect was banned worldwide in 1995, with Russia leading the crackdown.
In 1994, Aum Shinrikyo members dispersed sarin gas in Matsumoto, Nagano, killing seven people. After the March '95 attack on Tokyo, police arrested about 30 of the sect leaders, some of whom, including Shoko Asahara, were sentenced to death.
Now operating under the name of Aleph, the cult is still in business and is believed to have between 1,000 and 2,000 members in Japan.