Japanese Cult Leader
Sentenced To Death
A former leader of Japan's doomsday cult was sentenced to death Thursday, the first such verdict handed out in connection with the Tokyo subway gassing that killed 12 people. Masato Yokoyama, 35, was sentenced at the Tokyo District Court for sprinkling nerve gas at rush hour in one of Tokyo's busiest subway stations, court officials said.
Thousands were sickened in the 1995 attack, in which five Aum Shinri Kyo members sprayed sarin into crowded subway cars. Nobody died in the train car assigned to Yokoyama.
Two other cult members who directly participated in the gassing have been given life in prison.
Cult leader Shoko Asahara is on trial for allegedly masterminding the subway attack and other murders. He also faces the death penalty.
On Wednesday, Aum promised to tone down its activities and stop recruiting members. It also said it would change its name.
But cult leaders disappointed many Japanese by refusing to acknowledge involvement in the sarin attack.
"We cannot say whether we have anything to do with the attack or not," Aum spokesman Hiroshi Araki said.
The cult's leaders said that the group will temporarily stop using the name Aum, as of Oct. 1, because it had created too much friction with the public and had hurt the group's image. Aum Shinri Kyo means Supreme Truth cult.