Japan Executes Sarin Attack Cult Leader, Six Followers

Japan Executes Sarin Attack Cult Leader, Six FollowersJapan Executes Sarin Attack Cult Leader, Six Followers

Japan executed Shoko Asahara, the leader of the doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 sarin-gas attack on Tokyo’s subway that killed 13 people and sickened thousands.

Asahara, 63, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, was put to death Friday along with six other senior members of the cult, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said at a press conference. All death penalties in Japan are carried out by hanging, Bloomberg reported.

The founder of the sect formerly known as Aum Shinrikyo had also been found guilty in an earlier attack that killed eight people in the city of Matsumoto, and had exhausted all appeals since his 2004 conviction for the crimes.

Born into a poor family of tatami-mat makers, the legally blind Asahara drew thousands of followers into his sect, which prophesied an imminent Armageddon in which its followers would seize power and achieve salvation. On March 20, 1995, Aum members released sarin gas on several Tokyo subway trains during peak commute hours, causing chaos in the capital.

The attack “plunged Japan and the world into deep fear,” Presiding Judge Shoji Ogawa said at Asahara’s trial in 2004. After failing to get a slate of Aum candidates elected to Japan’s parliament in 1990, “Asahara turned to arming the cult and eventually came to desire to rule Japan and become a king.”

  Tokyo Attack

In the Tokyo attack, five Aum members carried plastic bags filled with liquid sarin onto trains on the city’s Hibiya, Marunouchi and Chiyoda subway lines, which were converging at Kasumigaseki station in the city’s government district, and punctured them using the sharpened tips of umbrellas.

The attack caused panic and chaos in the station and throughout Tokyo. Victims of all ages were described as “coughing uncontrollably, vomiting and collapsing in heaps.”

More than 180 people were indicted for the attacks. Asahara was arrested in May 1995 and sentenced to death in February 2004 after an eight-year trial. Prosecutors at the time called him the worst criminal in the history of Japan.

CAPTION: In this March 20, 1995 file photo, the injured of the deadly gas attack are treated by rescuers near Tsukiji subway station in Tokyo.


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