Japan cult leader who carried out Tokyo sarin attack is executed

Hannah Rogers
July 9, 2018

In June 1994, the cult spread sarin gas in Matsumoto in central Japan, killing eight people and injuring more than 140 others, in an attack targeting residents who were protesting the cult's presence in their neighborhood and court officials handling their legal disputes.

The German government has described the death penalty as "inhumane and cruel" after Japan hanged seven members of the doomsday cult that poisoned commuters in a deadly subway attack in 1995. Japanese media reports say on Friday, July 6, 2018, Asahara, who has been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing and other crimes, has been executed. 13 were sentenced to death.

Twelve other members of Aum Shinrikyo were sentenced to death for their roles in the Tokyo attack.

Japan's justice minister, who approved the hangings, said she doesn't take executions lightly but felt they were justified in this case because of the unprecedentedly seriousness of the crimes.

"As I also bear a heavy responsibility, I would like to apologize to the victims", he said, although adding, "I have left Aleph more than 10 years ago, and I don't have any special feelings (for Asahara)".

It renamed itself Aleph in 2000 and two splinter groups have been formed, including one established by high-profile former member Fumihiro Joyu.

Six more cult members are still on death row, according to the Associated Press. "The death penalty can never deliver this as it is the ultimate denial of human rights", Hiroka Shoji, East Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement. It is unclear whether they were also executed this week.

Asahara, whose original name was Chizuo Matsumoto, founded Aum Shinrikyo in 1984.

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The Aum Shinri Kyo, or Aum Supreme Truth cult, which mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings, staged a series of crimes including simultaneous sarin gas attacks on Tokyo subway trains during rush hour in March 1995.

The convicted also assaulted and murdered wayward followers and people who helped members leave the cult.

What is the Aum Shinrikyo cult? The cult group made sarin, a deadly nerve agent in the facility. His death sentence was finalized in 2006. Thirteen people were killed and more than 6000 sickened.

Six of the seven, including Asahara, had been implicated in the subway attack.

Here we look back at images of the attack and the events that followed.

Cult members have said they believed Asahara's prophesy that an apocalypse was coming and they alone would survive it.

Over the years, the group managed to lure in followers from some of Japan's top universities and boasted some 10,000 followers in Japan and another 30,000 in Russian Federation.

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