The Tokyo District Court has sentenced to nine years imprisonment a former member of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult. 48-year old Makoto Hirata was found guilty of the abduction of a notary clerk in 1995, along with the bombing of a condominium in Tokyo and firebombing of an Aum facility to halt police investigations.
He had been hiding from authorities for almost 17 years but surrendered to the police on Dec. 31, 2011. Hirata admitted that he turned himself in to the police, hoping that it would delay the executions of former members of the cult group who were already on death row. In 1995, Hirata, along with some members of the religious cult, abducted 68-year old Kiyoshi Kariya, who died when members of the group injected him with an anesthetic. The jury who tried Hirata included three professional and six lay judges, including the 54-year old son of his victim, Minoru Kariya. Hirata maintained his innocence on the death of Kariya and apologized to Minoru and other victims.
During trial, the court presented death row inmates to testify against Hirata. Tomomasa Nakagawa, Yoshihiro Inoue and Yasuo Koike were found guilty of their involvement in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995. Prosecutors failed to get the 12-year imprisonment term they were hoping for Hirata, while the defense team was hoping for a 4-year term. Hirata was charged for the 3 crimes, but was not charged in relation to the subway attack.