Lover of subway gas attack woman sentenced

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Tokyo -

The lover of a woman arrested for involvement in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 was given a suspended sentence by a Japanese court on Thursday for harbouring her.

Tokyo District Court sentenced 41-year-old Hiroto Takahashi, an interior decorator, to 18 months in prison suspended for five years for sheltering Naoko Kikuchi despite knowing of her crimes.

Kikuchi was the penultimate member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult to be caught, 17 years after the attack on one of the world's busiest public transport networks.

She was arrested on June 3 alongside Takahashi and accused of involvement in the production of the Nazi-developed sarin gas which the cult released on crowded subway trains in the Japanese capital.

They killed 13 people and injured thousands, sowing panic through the city.

Kikuchi was later indicted on charges of sending explosives to members of the Tokyo government and has not been charged in connection with the subway attack.

The court ruled that Takahashi gave her shelter in Tokyo and its environs from March 2007 to June this year while aware that she was wanted by police.

Media reports said the court gave Takahashi a suspended sentence because he was not involved in the cult or any of its crimes.

The final fugitive was arrested two weeks after Kikuchi following a high-profile hunt amid blanket media coverage.

Thirteen Aum members, including guru Shoko Asahara, are on death row after being convicted over the subway attack.

Asahara, a partially blind preacher who peddled a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic messages, developed an obsession with sarin gas and became paranoid that his enemies would attack him with it. - Sapa-AFP

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