Japan cult leader who carried out Tokyo sarin attack is executed


The former leader of Aum, the Japanese doomsday cult that carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, has been executed, Japanese media reports.

Their other crimes include the 1989 murders of an anti-Aum lawyer and his wife and 1-year-old baby and a 1994 sarin attack in the city of Matsumoto in central Japan, which killed seven people and injured more than 140. Sarin, a nerve gas, was originally developed by the Nazis.

The 1995 subway attack was the most audacious.

On 20 March 1995, cult members released the Sarin on the subway in the Japanese capital. As trials of cult members began taking place, numerous crimes were confessed to by members, including the production of VX nerve gas, attempts to manufacture automatic weapons, kidnapping, chemical attacks, and the murder of people deemed to threaten the cult.

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.

She said the crime affected not only Japan but also sowed fear overseas.

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Asahara was one of seven members of the cult hanged this week.

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

The ministry said that as of Friday, the number of death-row inmates with their sentences finalized was at 117, one of whom is under retrial.

Aum Shinrikyo still exists and has been designated as a terrorist organization by several nations.

The cult's most notorious crime was the release of sarin gas on Tokyo subways in 1995.

Rights group Amnesty International said justice demanded accountability but also respect for civil rights.

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Some Japanese anxious about revenge. "I have always been wondering why it had to be my daughter and why she had to be killed. We have to be on guard for a while", said Twitter user Chie. Matsumoto, also known under the alias Shoko Asahara, is reportedly the first of 13 individuals scheduled to be executed for their roles in orchestrating the 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006.

Japanese police tightened security Friday after the executions of the founder and six former senior members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult earlier in the day fanned fears about potential retaliation by followers.

Aum Shinrikyo is designated a terrorist organisation in the United States and many other countries, but Aleph and Hikari no Wa are both legal in Japan, although designated as "dangerous religions" subject to surveillance. He also said he had travelled forward in time to 2006 and talked to people then about what World War Three had been like.

Though concerns about the Aum had already been raised, the attack prompted a massive crackdown on the cult's headquarters and the arrest of Asahara and other group members.

At its peak, the cult had at least 10,000 members in Japan and overseas, including graduates of some of Japan's top universities. A number lived at a huge commune-like complex Asahara set up at the foot of Mount Fuji, where the group studied his teachings and practiced freaky rituals but also built an arsenal of weapons - including sarin.

Fortunately, mistakes made in developing the sarin and its delivery method meant the attack was far less effective than intended, and the group only succeeded in killing 12 and injuring 5,500 people.

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