Former leader of Japanese doomsday cult hanged over 1995 sarin gas attack

Shoko Asahara Cult Guru Behind Japan Sarin Attack Executed

Shoko Asahara Cult Guru Behind Japan Sarin Attack Executed

On 20 March 1995, cult members released the Sarin on the subway in the Japanese capital.

In this March 20, 1995, file photo, victims of a deadly sarin nerve gas attack are treated by rescuers near Tsukiji subway station in Tokyo.

The images of bodies, many in business suits, sprawled across platforms stunned Japan, and triggered public safety steps such as the removal of non-transparent rubbish bins that remain in force to this day.

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa had sentenced 13 people for their role in the sarin gas attack.

Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for producing sarin in the 90s - a chemical gas and nerve agent that was designed by Nazi Germany - and committing the country's biggest terrorist attack to date by releasing the gas in an underground subway that ran through Tokyo's political district, killing 12 and permanently injuring a further 50, and temporarily poisoning thousands.

Announcements of the other hangings followed through the morning.

On 16 May, Shoko Asahara was finally arrested.

After the attacks, members of the group revealed they had also killed lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, who had been missing since November 1989, along with his wife and their 1-year-old son.

"My husband's parents and my parents are already dead", the silver-haired Takahashi added. But it gradually became a paranoid doomsday cult, convinced the world was about to end in a global war and that only they would survive, according to BBC News.

As a result, The Japan Times notes that the cult leader's death "leaves several critical questions unanswered, because even during his trial, Asahara never explained the actual motivations for the crimes".

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.

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

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.

Asahara was sentenced to hang in 2004 on 13 charges, including the subway gas attacks and a series of other crimes that killed more than a dozen more people. About 180 members were sentenced to varying prison terms.

His execution was the first of 13 former Aum members who have been condemned to death.

At its peak, the cult had at least 10,000 members in Japan and overseas, including graduates of some of Japan's most elite universities.

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

Despite the horror that persists over the Aum's subway attack and other crimes, some experts had warned against the execution of Asahara and his acolytes.

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