Monday, 23 July, 2018

Cult leader executed for Japan sarin attacks still a mystery

Shoko Asahara guru of the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult October 1 1990 Shoko Asahara guru of the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult October 1 1990 Credit JIJI PRESS AFP
Gerardo Duncan | 09 July, 2018, 06:16

Tokyo residents who lived through the chaos and horror of nerve gas being released on the city's subway lines during rush hour on March 20, 1995, have expressed relief tinged with concern after the execution of Shoko Asahara on Friday morning.

Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, was executed by hanging on Friday. Japanese media reports say on Friday, July 6, 2018, Asahara, who has been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing and other crimes, has been executed. He was among 13 people placed on death row in connection with the string of crimes perpetrated by the doomsday cult.

"When I think of those who died because of them, it was a pity (my husband's) parents and my parents could not hear the news of this execution", she said. "Now, I can pay a visit to her grave and tell her of this".

AUM Shinrikyo renamed itself Aleph in January 2000.

Asahara, the 63-year-old self-styled religious leader was hanged shortly after dawn at the Tokyo Detention House, more than 23 years after he was arrested.

The Aum cult was a clear danger to not only to Japan but also to the United States, a 1995 report by a U.S. Senate subcommittee concluded.

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 sarin gas attack killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000.

The images of bodies, many in business suits, sprawled across subway platforms stunned Japan, and triggered public safety steps such as the removal of non-transparent rubbish bins that remain in force to this day. Some followers are believed to still worship Asahara and could increasingly view him as divine after his execution, according to the official.

Aum Shinrikyo's killings began in November 1989, when lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto - who was working on a class action case against the cult - was brutally murdered along with his wife and child.

Executions are rare in Japan but surveys show most people support the death sentence.

At Aum's peak in 1995, the number of members exceeded 10,000, but now only about 1,650 members belong to the groups that originated from Aum.

He pleaded not guilty and never testified, but muttered and made incoherent remarks in court during the eight years of his trial.

The group gradually became a paranoid doomsday cult, convinced the world was about to end in a global war and that only they would survive.

The cult claimed to have 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 in Russian Federation but has disbanded.

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