Trial of last Aum fugitive Katsuya Takahashi to begin Jan 16

Tokyo - The trial of the final fugitive from the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult that launched deadly nerve gas attacks on Tokyo’s subway in 1995 will begin on Jan 16.

Katsuya Takahashi, 56, a former member of Aum Shinrikyo cult, was arrested on suspicion of murder after being spotted at a comic book cafe in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, in June 2012. A cafe employee had recognized him and called police.

Takahashi, who had been on the run for almost 17 years, is charged with murder for his part in the coordinated release of sarin gas, an incident that killed 13 people, injured thousands and sowed panic throughout the capital.

A panel of six lay and three professional judges will rule on Takahashi’s guilt or innocence in the trial which is expected to last until April.

Prosecutors are expected to call at least three Aum death row inmates to give testimony.

The cult was led by Shoko Asahara, a partially blind guru who preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic messages, and developed an obsession with sarin gas, becoming paranoid that his enemies would attack him with it.

According to prosecutors, the cult wanted to disrupt police moves to crack down on them and at the same time enact Asahara’s vision of an apocalyptic war.

Asahara remains on death row, along with 11 others.