A high court on Friday ruled that former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Naoko Kikuchi was not guilty of a 1995 parcel bombing at the Tokyo metropolitan government building.
In overruling a lower court sentence of five years in prison on a charge of assisting in attempted murder, the Tokyo High Court’s Presiding Judge Takaaki Oshima said the accounts given by a senior cult member that served as the basis of the lower court ruling “cannot be trusted.”
The defense counsel claimed the 43-year-old did not know chemicals she took to the cult’s hideout in Tokyo would be used to attack people.
A lawyer for Kikuchi said the ruling was “very sensible” and urged prosecutors not to appeal it.
The Tokyo District Court convicted Kikuchi in June last year, finding she was aware of the possibility the chemicals would be used to kill or harm people. When the senior cult member Yoshihiro Inoue, 45, showed Kikuchi explosives created with the chemicals at the hideout, she responded, “I will work hard,” according to the lower court ruling.
In May 1995, Aum members sent a parcel containing a bomb made with the chemicals to the metropolitan government head office, resulting in an explosion that seriously injured a Tokyo government employee.
The bombing was intended to disrupt a police investigation into the cult and prevent an arrest of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
Kikuchi was arrested in June 2012 after 17 years on the run.
A number of Aum members including Asahara have been found guilty in a series of crimes including a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 that killed 13 people and made more than 6,000 others ill.