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Japanese Court Upholds Death Sentence for Nerve Gas Subway Attacker

A Japanese court on Friday upheld the death sentence of a chemist convicted for leading a doomsday group's efforts to develop nerve gas used in a 1995 attack on the Tokyo subways that killed 12 people, a court official said.

The Tokyo High Court turned down the appeal filed by Masami Tsuchiya, 41, a court spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, citing court policy. She refused to offer any other details.

CountryWatch: Japan

Tsuchiya in January 2004 became the 11th member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult to be sentenced to death for the attack.

Prosecutors at the time said Tsuchiya's responsibility in the killings was second only to that of the group's guru, Shoko Asahara.

Tsuchiya was accused of heading the group's drive to develop an arsenal of chemical weapons — including VX, mustard and sarin gases — intended to trigger Armageddon.

Sarin was used in the March 1995 attack, in which cult followers punctured plastic bags of the gas on rush-hour subway trains. In addition to the deaths, the attack sickened some 5,000 people and shocked the country.

Raids of cult headquarters and confessions of leading members later revealed the cult had numerous plots to overthrow the government and operated labs to develop chemical and biological weapons.

The group has renamed itself Aleph and authorities say about 1,650 people in Japan and 300 in Russia continue to believe in Asahara's teachings.

CountryWatch: Japan