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Japanese cult leader gets death sentence

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A court sentenced a former doomsday cult leader Friday to die for murdering four people in two separate attacks, including the strangling deaths of an anti-cult lawyer, his wife and their infant son.

It was the first time Japan used capital punishment against the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which is accused of gassing the Tokyo subway system in 1995, in an attack that killed a dozen people.In issuing the ruling, the Tokyo District Court said former cult member Kazuaki Okazaki, 38, deserved the death penalty because of the brutality of the crimes.

It rejected his lawyers' request for leniency, Japan's public television network NHK reported.

As always, the court confirmed the penalty the defendant received but refused to discuss details of the sentencing.

Okazaki and four other cultists strangled Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife, and their infant son on Nov. 4, 1989, at their home in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo at the request of AUM leader Shoko Asahara, police say. The four other cult members involved in the attack are being tried separately.

Sakamoto was preparing a lawsuit against the cult when he was murdered, accusing Aum of luring youngsters into the group.

In the other killing, Okazaki was found guilty of murdering a cult member who had tried to quit the religious group in February 1989.