Published: Fri, July 06, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Japan cult leader behind gas attack, followers are executed

Japan cult leader behind gas attack, followers are executed

A Japanese government spokesman has confirmed the execution of doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara.

Seven other cult members have been transferred to other facilities across the country and reports speculated that their death sentences may be completed in the next few days.

It's believed that the cult had tens of thousands of followers at its peak, and now sits at around the 1500 mark across Japan and Russian Federation, where original members appeared under the name 'Aleph' in the mid-1990s.

Shoko Asahara, who was 63 and whose real name was Chizou Matsumoto, was the first of 13 people scheduled to be hanged for a string of crimes that killed 29 people, including a sarin gas attack that killed 13 commuters and injured more than 6,000 others.

Cult leader Shoko Asahara with his family and cult members.

The Justice Ministry said it could not confirm the reports, which cited unidentified sources.

The investigation into the attack uncovered more doomsday preparations, weapons arsenals and multiple killings by Aum.

Atsushi Sakahara, who was injured in the attack, welcomed the executions.

The cult also carried out other crimes that together with the subway attack killed 27 people in total.

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Aum Shinrikyo is designated a terrorist organisation in the U.S. and many other countries, but Aleph and Hikari no Wa are both legal in Japan, although designated as "dangerous religions" subject to surveillance.

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

Nakagawa and key members produced sarin at a cult compound and sprayed it from a van, in what was later regarded as an experiment for the subsequent subway gassing.

They fear his death may trigger the naming of a new cult leader, possibly his second son.

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

More than 20 years of trials involving Aum members came to an end in January 2018 when Japan's supreme court upheld the life sentence of Katsuya Takahashi.

"We should have them talk until they die a natural death so that they help prevent a recurrence", he said.

The others hanged Friday included two scientists who led the production of the sarin gas and one of the men who carried out the actual attack on the subway.

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