Japan Executes Aum Shinrikyo Cult Leader

Pauline Gross
July 9, 2018

The executions Friday of a doomsday cult leader and six of his followers closed a chapter on one of Japan's most shocking crimes, the poison gas attack on rush-hour commuters in Tokyo's subway that killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000. 13 were sentenced to death.

Under instructions from Asahara, six Aum members strangled 33-year-old lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto - who had been helping parents seeking to free their children from the cult's control - as well as his 29-year-old wife, Satoko, and their 1-year-old son, Tatsuhiko, after breaking into the family's home in Yokohama in the early hours of November 4, 1989.

"Their death penalties had been finalized after sufficient deliberations at courts", Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said at a press conference in the afternoon, adding that she made careful considerations before ordering the executions on Tuesday.

"I've been in pain for years".

The Aum cult, now renamed Aleph, officially disowned Asahara in 2000, but it has never been banned and experts say the former guru retained a strong influence.

With their deaths, Japan will now have to grapple with the aftermath of unanswered questions over the crimes - with no longer any chance of hearing explanations directly from Asahara or the six others.

Tomomasa Nakagawa, a doctor also executed Friday, and several other cultists broke into the Sakamotos' apartment late at night, strangled them to death and buried them in the mountains.

The injured of the deadly gas attack are treated by rescue workers near Tsukiji subway station in Tokyo, Japan.

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Five Aum Shinrikyo members boarded subway cars on three different lines in central Tokyo during rush hour, carrying plastic bags filled with sarin.

He was sentenced to death in 2004, one of 13 cult members who ended up on death row and the first to be executed. "I hope they will not launch terror attacks", like the 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture that killed eight people.

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. Some followers are believed to still worship Asahara and could increasingly view him as divine after his execution, according to the official. Sarin, a nerve gas, was originally developed by the Nazis.

He was sentenced to death after a lengthy prosecution during which he regularly delivered rambling and incoherent monologues in English and Japanese.

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.

Asahara was 63 years old. Asahara proclaimed that he would take the sins of the world upon himself to save his devoted followers in preparation for the coming third world war he predicted the United States was about to start.

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

Other reports by GizPress

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