The Tokyo District Court on April 30 sentenced the last Aum Shinrikyo member on the most wanted list to an indefinite prison term for a number of crimes, including the 1995 nerve gas attack in the capital.
Katsuya Takahashi, 57, denied all the charges.
Japan does not have a clear provision for life imprisonment. Indefinite-period prison sentences are considered harsher than prison sentences with a fixed term.
Defense lawyers argued that an indefinite-period sentence was too stiff a punishment because Takahashi was only following the orders of high-ranking cult members. His lawyers suggested a prison term of 10 years or less, if he was found guilty.
The court found Takahashi guilty on five separate counts, including transporting an Aum member who actually released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system during the morning rush hour on March 20, 1995.
He was also convicted on two counts connected with the use of toxic VX nerve gas, one count of abducting a Tokyo notary who was later killed and one count of sending a package containing an explosive to the Tokyo metropolitan government building.
Takahashi was arrested in June 2012 after spending 17 years on the run.
During his two-and-a-half-month trial, Takahashi offered no apology to the victims or bereaved family members of the incidents he was involved in. Regarding the nerve gas attack in Tokyo, which killed 13 and sickened thousands, he said he never knew that the chemical involved was sarin.
He also told the court that he still believed in the teachings of Chizuo Matsumoto, 60, who founded the cult under the name Shoko Asahara.
Matsumoto is now on death row.
Takahashi’s trial was handled under the citizen judge system, the first time that system has been used for a former Aum member.