Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Japan executes doomsday cult leader and six followers for 1995 subway attack

Shoko Asahara former leader of secretive sect Aum Supreme Truth in 1990 Shoko Asahara former leader of secretive sect Aum Supreme Truth in 1990
Faye Gross | 08 July, 2018, 05:03

In a February 2004 ruling, the Tokyo District Court found Asahara guilty of all 13 charges and sentenced him to death, saying, "We can not help saying that the motivation and objective of the crimes were too outrageous and ridiculous, as he tried to control Japan in the name of salvation".

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 country has the custom of not executing criminals on death row until the sentences of their accomplices are finalized. Executions are carried out suddenly with little warning to the condemned or their families when the day arrives, following a conviction and appeals process that can stretch out for years, as it did with Asahara.

Asahara was convicted of taking part in 13 crimes that led to the deaths of 27 people, which later became 29, according to The Japan Times.

As authorities tried to dismantle the cult, 191 other Aum members were charged for a wide range of illegal acts, including murder, attempted murder, abduction and the production of deadly nerve gases and illegal automatic rifles.

His followers claimed their guru, who dressed in Chinese-style pyjama tunics, had extra-sensory powers and could levitate for hours at a time. The group has since splintered and went on under the name Aleph. The followers of the three groups total about 1,650 in Japan and about 460 in Russian Federation, while the groups hold more than 1 billion yen ($9 million) in assets, according to the agency. Thereby, the New Era, to be named next year, will not be blighted by the most terrifying terrorist attack that hit Japan during the Heisei Era.

Friday's executions provided closure for family members of those killed, such as Kiyoe Iwata, whose daughter died in the subway attack. That group is still the subject of surveillance and raids by the Japanese police.

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

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This February 1995, photo shows facilities of Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult. The cult had tens of thousands of followers at its peak.

Asahara was captured two months later, dragged out of a hidden compartment in a ceiling where he had holed up to evade arrest.

Born Chizuo Matsumoto in 1955 on the south-western island of Kyushu, Asahara changed his name in the 1980s, when the Aum cult was being developed.

The nature of Aum Shinrikyo's ideology, and how much of it migrated into spinoff groups after Japanese police smashed the parent organization, remains a topic of much interest. In that attack, the group sprayed the gas from a modified vehicle. I wanted experts to ask them questions.

"I regret that is no longer possible", she said.

Between 2012 and 2016, 24 people were executed, according to the most recent justice ministry data.

After a trial that lasted eight years, Asahara was found guilty of masterminding the attack and sentenced to death in 2004.

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