Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Japan Executes Leader of Doomsday Cult

Japan Executes Leader of Doomsday Cult

Asahara had been on death row for over a decade for the attack that killed 13 people and and sickened more than 6,000.

Shoko Asahara, the charismatic near-blind leader of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, had been on death row for more than 10 years for crimes including the nerve agent attack, which shocked the world and prompted a massive crackdown on the cult.

He was sentenced to death in 2004 for the attack and other crimes including another sarin gas attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, which killed eight people and injured more than 100 others.

Recounting how the doomsday cult attracted educated youths, Tadashi Moriyama, a Takushoku University professor, said he feels that "it was not fully revealed at the trial or among researchers why many highly educated people or those with high social status were involved in the crimes".

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.

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Japan's justice minister says she approved the executions of a cult leader and six of his followers because of the seriousness of their crimes and the pain they inflicted.

The agency said it searched a total of 16 facilities of three groups across Japan on Friday, including those of the cult's successor Aleph and the Hikarinowa, or the Circle of Rainbow splinter group launched by former AUM spokesman Fumihiro Joyu. "However, the death penalty is never the answer", said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

"Seven Aum members were executed, they include Shoko Asahara", a justice ministry official told AFP.

The seven death row inmates were hanged Friday for their involvement in several deadly attacks carried out by the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult.

FILE - In this March 20, 1995, file photo, subway passengers affected by sarin nerve gas in the central Tokyo subway trains are carried into St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo.

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He was also convicted of the murders of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, who had been helping parents seeking to free their children of the cult's control, and his wife and their 1-year-old son in November 1989. The sarin gas attack also shattered Japan's public safety image. The attack claimed the lives of thirteen people, over 6,300 people were injured. At its peak, Asahara had tens of thousands of followers worldwide.

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

Police leave an Aum Shinrikyo compound in the small village of Kamikuishiki at the foot of Mount Fuji on March 28, 1995.

Some survivors of the cult's crimes opposed the executions, saying they would end hopes for a fuller explanation of the crimes.

In 2016, police in Russian Federation conducted a number of raids on suspected cult members in Moscow and St Petersburg.

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