Shoko Asahara, head of Aum Shinrikyo cult behind Tokyo gas attack executed

Geraldine Edwards
July 8, 2018

Japan has executed seven members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult over the deadly Sarin chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995.

Sarin was originally developed by the Nazis.

The 1995 subway attack was the most audacious. Had the attack been carried out without mistakes, not only would it have killed thousands on board but also the people on the station waiting to get on.

"I wanted them to talk more about the attacks when considering anti-terrorism measures".

The ministry said that Shoko Asahara and six members of his Aum Shinrikyo cult were hanged Friday.

The followers executed were Masami Tsuchiya, 53; Seiichi Endo, 58; Tomomitsu Niimi, 54; Yoshihiro Inoue, 48; Tomomasa Nakagawa, 55; and Kiyohide Hayakawa, 68.

Several of those executed Friday may have had requests for retrials pending, Amnesty International said.

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Less than a year later, in March 1995, members of the group released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people and injuring more than 6,200 others.

Hangings are announced afterward.

Her husband Kazumasa Takahashi, a deputy station-master at Kasumigaseki station in the Japanese capital, died soon after trying to remove a pool of clear liquid from a train.

"With the execution, I feel that the opportunity to discover (why) has been lost", Moriyama said.

Japan Times notes that executions are rare in Japan and carried out with extraordinary secrecy, although the public broadly supports the death penalty.

The Aum cult, now renamed Aleph, officially disowned Asahara in 2000, but it was never banned. "They committed the crimes based on the interpretations of the self-centered doctrine [of the cult]", the minister said at the Justice Ministry.

"I cheered when I heard he'd been killed, but worry that his former followers might deify him and do something".

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"It does not bring a closure for us, and it does not change our lives", he said.

The Sarin attack, Japan's worst terror incident, killed 13 people and injured thousands more. In March 2006, the Tokyo High Court rejected his appeal without holding a public hearing because defense lawyers did not submit appeal documents by the deadline.

In 2010, then-justice minister Keiko Chiba, who opposed the death penalty, signed off on two executions and opened an execution chamber to media for the first time, hoping to stimulate debate.

A charismatic speaker, he cloaked himself in mysticism to attract recruits, including the doctors and engineers who manufactured nerve agent for the group.

Under instructions from Asahara, several AUM members released sarin gas from a vehicle mounted with a spraying device at a parking lot in a residential district of the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, on the night of June 27, 1994. In that attack, the group sprayed the gas from a modified vehicle. The followers of the three groups total about 1,650 in Japan and about 460 in Russian Federation, while the groups hold more than 1 billion yen ($9 million) in assets, according to the agency.

Some members lived in a commune-like complex Asahara established at the foot of Mount Fuji, where the group studied his teachings, practised freaky rituals and gathered an arsenal of weapons - including sarin.

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