Last of trials to close out Aum Shinrikyo rampage

November 16, 2011

Behind bars for the rest of his life and with plenty of time to think, Shigeo Sugimoto blames only himself for his role in Aum Shinrikyo's deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

"I have to continue to think why the attack occurred until I die," the 52-year-old told an Asahi Shimbun reporter in prison about a month before the last of the Aum Shinrikyo trials ends on Nov. 21.

"We somewhat deified (cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto), but we brainwashed ourselves and led ourselves into the depths."

Sugimoto, who drove a car carrying cult members who released sarin gas, has written his thoughts on thousands of sheets of letter paper.

He wrote he was "greatly shocked" when he was told of the attack but "continued to justify the plan, thinking it had deep meaning."

A total of 189 individuals were indicted for Aum Shinrikyo's rampage from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

The Tokyo subway attack in March 1995 killed 13 and sickened more than 6,000. Another sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, had claimed seven lives in 1994.

Cult members also murdered anti-Aum Shinrikyo lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and infant son in 1989.

Matsumoto, 56, who went by the name of Shoko Asahara, has had his death sentence finalized.

Yasuo Hayashi, 53, whose death sentence has been finalized for carrying out the subway attack, has met regularly with his defense lawyer, Shoshi Nakajima.

Two years ago, Nakajima, 78, presented a collection of teachings by an Indian philosopher at Hayashi's request.

Since then, Hayashi has never expressed his fears of Matsumoto or grudges against him, according to Nakajima.

Hayashi was quoted as describing Matsumoto as a "pitiful person."

Toru Toyoda, 43, whose death sentence has also been finalized for carrying out the subway attack, has met regularly with composer and conductor Ken Ito, 46, a former classmate at the University of Tokyo.

When they met earlier this month, Toyoda said he was concerned whether someone might resort to a rash act following the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

According to Ito, Aum Shinrikyo attacked Tokyo subways, taking the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January the same year as an end-of-the-century phenomenon.

Ito assumes that Toyoda may have felt the same gloom hanging over society after another major disaster.

Kazuaki Okazaki, 51, whose death sentence has been finalized for his involvement in Sakamoto's murder and other incidents, was adopted by Zen priest Shinzan Miyamae in 2004.

Miyamae, 76, chief priest at Gyokuryuji temple in Seki, Gifu Prefecture, said Okazaki appeared prepared for his execution when they met in October.

But Miyamae has never heard Okazaki speak of his thoughts about his victims.

Supreme Court rulings on the death sentences for former senior cult members Tomomasa Nakagawa and Seiichi Endo will be on Nov. 18 and 21, respectively.

(This article was written by Daisuke Nakai and Ryosuke Yamamoto.)

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Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Passengers are treated at a subway station in Tokyo after Aum Shinrikyo's sarin gas attack on March 20, 1995. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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