Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Japan executes cult leader Shoko Asahara for 1995 subway attack

Japan executes cult leader Shoko Asahara for 1995 subway attack Japan executes cult leader Shoko Asahara for 1995 subway attack
Patty Aguilar | 06 July, 2018, 22:56

Doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara and several followers were executed Friday for their roles in a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes, Japanese media reported.

The hangings are the first executions in connection with the nerve agent attack, which killed 13 people and injured thousands more. Six other followers remain on death row.

A court-appointed psychiatrist suggested he might be faking insanity to avoid punishment. Subscribe to the Standard Group SMS service by texting "NEWS" to 22840.

Half-blind, with a shaggy hair and beard, Asahara was the key figure in the stunningly random and lethal attack targeting Tokyo commuters.

People in Japan expressed relief that the executions had finally taken place for the doomsday cult leader Asahara who was responsible for the shocking nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway two decades ago. The attack left victims vomiting and coughing up blood while others were blinded and paralysed.

The cult also used sarin in 1994, releasing the gas in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto on a summer night in an attempt to kill three judges set to rule on the cult.

The attack brought worldwide infamy to the Aum group, which attracted a range of devotees, including the doctors and engineers who produced chemical agents for the group's crimes.

Six other members executed along with their leader were: Tomomasa Nakagawa, Tomomitsu Niimi, Kiyohide Hayakawa, Yoshihiro Inoue, Seiichi Endo and Masami Tsuchiya, according to Japanese Justice Minister Yoko Kawakami.

Another six are serving life sentences.

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Aum Shinrikyo followers chant before a portrait of guru Shoko Asahara on July 19, 1999, at Aum's Adachi office in Tokyo.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult was founded by Shoko Asahara, also known as Chizuo Matsumoto (above).

Aum Shinrikyo gained official status as a religious organisation in Japan in 1989 and picked up a sizeable global following. Aum Shinrikyo, which means "Supreme Truth" in English, attracted tens of thousands of followers around the world.

The core belief of the cult was that the United States would someday begin an apocalyptic world war by once again using weapons of mass destruction against Japan. Prior to the 1995 subway attack, Aum Shinrikyo was an astoundingly large movement, with tens of thousands of followers in Japan and Russian Federation. The group has since splintered and went on under the name Aleph.

It still has followers both in Japan and also worldwide, in particular in some countries of the former Soviet Union.

Asahara's family had claimed he was mentally incompetent and could not be executed as stipulated in Japan's law of criminal procedure, but multiple Justice Ministry sources denied any abnormality in his mental status.

His execution was delayed due to ongoing cases against his co-conspirators, the last of whom was arrested in 2012.

In all, 13 cult members were sentenced to death during more than 20 years of trials, which came to an end in January 2018.

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