The trials related to Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult that executed the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, are close to ending after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a former cultist.
The top court’s decision dated Thursday upheld a high court’s life sentence on Katsuya Takahashi, 59, who was accused of murder in the sarin attack. He was the last of the former members still being tried.
With the conclusion of all of the trials, judicial authorities will likely shift their focus to the possible execution of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. Asahara was given the death penalty for masterminding the 1995 attack, among other charges.
In connection with the sarin attack and other crimes, death sentences have been finalized for 13 members of the cult, while life sentences have been finalized for five others.
Around 190 people with ties to the cult had been indicted over the sarin attack, which killed 13 people and injured thousands, as well as other cases.
The Tokyo High Court ruled in September 2016 that Takahashi, the driver for one of the cult members who released the poison in subway carriages, was aware that a toxic substance would be released.
The high court also found Takahashi guilty of four other attacks orchestrated by Aum.
Takahashi’s ruling followed the case of ex-Aum member Naoko Kikuchi last month.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that acquitted Kikuchi over her role in a 1995 parcel bombing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.
Rejecting an appeal filed by prosecutors, the top court’s First Petty Bench said in its decision dated earlier in the month that the Tokyo District Court’s 2014 ruling that Kikuchi was guilty of assisting in attempted murder was based on an error, and that it endorses the Tokyo High Court’s 2015 decision to overturn the lower court’s verdict.
Her acquittal was finalized later.
Kikuchi, 46, was arrested in June 2012 after 17 years on the run. She was later indicted over her role in the parcel bombing in May 1995, two months after the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack orchestrated by Aum Shinrikyo killed 13 people and made more than 6,000 others ill.
In the bombing incident, members of Aum sent a parcel containing a bomb to the Metropolitan Government head office, resulting in an explosion that seriously injured a government employee.