The man who was in a relationship with and sheltered Naoko Kikuchi, the second to last fugitive of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult who was arrested earlier this summer, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Tokyo District Court on Thursday. 41 year old Hiroto Takahashi was aware of Kikuchi’s real identity, as she lived under the alias Chizuko Sakurai, and her past crimes, including the most famous Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system with sarin nerve gas in 1995.
Takahashi, who worked as an interior decorator, was arrested with Kikuchi on June 3rd when police managed to track her down after 17 years on the run. Presiding Judge Hiroko Kondo stated during the sentencing that Takahashi had a negative impact on Japan’s criminal justice system by sheltering one of the country’s most wanted criminals for over five years. But the court gave him a suspended sentence on the basis that he had no connection with the cult or any of its past crimes.
When the pair were arrested in Kanagawa Prefecture this summer, Takahashi told investigators that he and Kikuchi had been living together since 2007. When they first met, she was already using the alias of Sakurai, but she did eventually tell him who she really was. The Aum Shinrikyo’s attack in Tokyo resulted in the death of 13 people, and injured more than 6,000. Kikuchi has been charged with both murder and attempted murder for her participation in the subway attack, as well as for several other serious crimes. Information she revealed led to police being able to catch the final Aum fugitive, Katsuya Takahashi (no relation to Hiroto Takahashi), only two weeks later, after widespread manhunt.
[via Daily Telegraph]