Japan prosecutors appeal acquittal of cult member


TOKYO–Tokyo prosecutors said Wednesday they have appealed to Japan’s top court after the acquittal last month of a former doomsday cult member convicted in a parcel bombing. An official at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office told AFP that it “took the case to the Supreme Court” without giving further details. The Tokyo High Court ruled in late November that Naoko Kikuchi, a former member of Aum Supreme Truth, was not guilty in a reversal of a lower court conviction. Aum members released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, killing 13 people and causing thousands of commuters to fall ill in a crime that deeply dented Japan’s sense of security. Kikuchi, 43, was not prosecuted for the subway assault with sarin gas but was instead convicted for a separate attack on a government building.

The Tokyo District Court last year sentenced her to five years in prison for her role in the May 1995 parcel bombing at the Tokyo metropolitan government office that seriously injured one official. Kikuchi carried chemical materials from the cult’s facility in Yamanashi prefecture west of Tokyo to its hideout in the capital three times in April 1995, which were then used to manufacture an explosive that injured a Tokyo official, the district court had said. Kikuchi, who had been one of only two remaining members of the Aum cult at large, was arrested in June 2012. Less than two weeks later, the final fugitive was also arrested. The cult was led by Shoko Asahara, a partially blind guru who preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic messages. Asahara was arrested at a commune near Mount Fuji two months after the subway attack and sentenced to hang in 2004, having been convicted of crimes resulting in multiple deaths.

He remains on death row, along with 12 other former members.