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Former cult follower sentenced to six years in prison

December 25, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ A court sentenced a 28-year-old man today to six years in prison for joining in the fatal torture of a fellow member of the doomsday cult accused in the Tokyo subway gassing.

Shinichi Yamauchi, 28, was convicted of conspiring with senior cult members to torture Toshio Tomita, 27, because cult guru Shoko Asahara suspected Tomita was a police spy.

In previous court sessions, prosecutors described how cultists acting under Asahara’s orders stuck needles under Tomita’s toenails and burned him with heated metal to try to make him confess.

Yamauchi also was accused of using a large microwave oven to dispose of the bodies of Tomita and Kotaro Ochida, another cult follower allegedly killed by members of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult.

The prosecution had demanded an eight-year sentence for Yamauchi, but presiding Judge Yasuro Tanaka of the Tokyo District Court said a shorter sentence was ordered because Yamauchi had left the cult and expressed remorse for the crimes.

Guru Asahara, meanwhile, is on trial on murder charges in the March 20, 1995, subway attack, which killed 12 people and sickened thousands, and on other murder and kidnapping charges.

His trial began in April, but a verdict is not expected for many months yet.

At its peak, the Aum cult claimed about 10,000 members in Japan and another 30,000 around the world, most of them in Russia. Aum since has been legally disbanded as a religious group, though a few hundred members are believed to remain loyal to Asahara.

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