A former leader of the doomsday cult that carried out deadly nerve gas attacks in Japan seven years ago has been sentenced to death. The man is the latest member of the Japanese group handed the death penalty for the attack.

The Tokyo District Court on Friday sentenced the Aum Supreme Truth cult's leading biochemist to death for murder and other crimes.

Seiichi Endo, 42, was convicted of playing a key role in the group's study and production of sarin gas, VX-gas, anthrax and other poisons.

Prosecutors say Endo deserved the death penalty because he knew that his products were potentially lethal, and that they would be used on innocent people.

He was accused of conspiring with the leader of the cult, Shoko Asahara, to spray sarin gas in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in June 1994, and of helping to make the sarin gas used for the attack in the Tokyo subways in March 1995.

The Matsumoto gassing killed seven people. The subway attack killed 12 and injured thousands.

Several members of the Aum cult have been sentenced to die. However, some of the sentences are on appeal and none has been carried out.

Shoko Egawa, Japan's best-known expert on the cult, says the Aum group in still in existence, but under the new name of Aleph. She says it is under heavy police surveillance, and warns there is evidence that its leaders still try to control members minds.

Mr. Asahara, the former leader, has been undergoing a lengthy trial for allegedly organizing the subway gas attack and other killings.