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Cultist Sentenced to Death in Tokyo Subway Attack

June 26, 2002|From Associated Press

TOKYO — A former doomsday cult figure was sentenced to death today for his involvement in numerous killings, including a nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

Tomomitsu Niimi, former "home affairs minister" of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, was found guilty in Tokyo District Court of murdering 26 people in seven attacks, including the 1995 subway gassing and the slaying of a lawyer and his family.

Court official Hideyuki Ito said Niimi has decided to appeal the case. It was unclear when the next proceedings will begin.

Niimi was given the death sentence by a three-judge panel presided over by Judge Yujiro Nakatani, Ito said.

Niimi gained notoriety at the start of his trial in 1996 by refusing to enter pleas and pledging eternal loyalty to Aum guru Shoko Asahara.

He has since reportedly admitted to all charges against him except involvement in the subway attack. But he said he was following Asahara's orders and shouldn't be subject to the death penalty.

Asahara is charged with directing the subway assault. He has been on trial since April 1996.

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