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JAPAN. SUPREME COURT GIVES GO-AHEAD TO EXECUTE FIRST DOOMSDAY CULT MEMBER

April 7, 2005: Japan's Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Kazuaki Okazaki, a former officer of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, giving the green light for the first execution of a member of the sect that attacked the Tokyo subway with nerve gas in 1995.
The court confirmed the death sentence on Okazaki, 44, who was convicted of killing four people with fellow cult members before the subway attacks including an anti-sect lawyer and the attorney's wife and baby son. Okazaki was left with no other means to appeal unless a court agreed to rehear the case if new evidence emerged. He was one of 13 former Aum members who had been sentenced to death. Defense lawyers had argued for leniency, saying Okazaki was under "mind control" by the sect's top guru Shoko Asahara. In prison, Okazaki was adopted by a mainstream Buddhist monk and has repeatedly apologized for his crimes. As part of his conversion, he has become an avid painter of classical Zen themes and sent letters to Aum followers urging them to leave the cult.
"Even though he surrendered to police and he prayed for the souls of the victims, his criminal responsibility is extremely serious," Judge Niro Shimada said of Okazaki. "The death sentence cannot be helped."
"I took his teaching on blind faith," Okazaki said in a letter sent last year to Jiji Press from jail. "I will not beg for my life," he said. "I can realize my heart's desire if I face capital punishment."
Okazaki, whose trial started in 1996, said he and five other Aum members on Asahara's orders broke into the Yokohama home of a lawyer campaigning against the sect, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, then 33, and strangled him to death.
They also suffocated his wife Satoko, 29, and smothered to death his one-year-old son Tatsuhiko with a blanket in the November 1989 break-in.
Okazaki was also found guilty in the February 1989 murder of Shuji Taguchi, 21, who had tried to leave the cult after witnessing an earlier Aum killing. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 07/04/2005)

MALI. COURT HANDS DOWN FIVE DEATH SENTENCES OVER RELIGIOUS CLASH
JAPAN. MAN ON DEATH ROW SINCE 1972 TO GET RETRIAL IN 1961 MURDER CASE
YEMEN. PRESIDENT PUTS EXECUTION OF JUVENILE ON HOLD
SOUTH KOREA. STATE RIGHTS BODY SUPPORTS ENDING DEATH PENALTY
JORDAN. COURT UPHOLDS DEATH PENALTY FOR ISLAMISTS OVER ATTACK PLOTS
DRC. MAN CONDEMNED TO DEATH OVER KABILA’S MURDER DIES
SAUDI ARABIA. SIX SOMALI NATIONALS EXECUTED
UK. BBC AIRS FILM OF NORTH KOREAN PUBLIC EXECUTION
SAUDI ARABIA. FOUR MEN EXECUTED FOR MURDER

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