The Latest: Japanese minister calls cult’s crimes heinous
In 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult punctured plastic bags to release sarin nerve gas inside train cars on Tokyo subways, killing 13 people and sickening more than 6,000.
The Aum Shinrikyo cult amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons to carry out leader Shoko Asahara’s escalating criminal orders in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
Doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara and several of his followers were executed on Friday for their roles in a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes, Japanese media reported.
The top Japanese government spokesman confirmed Asahara’s execution but wouldn’t comment on the others.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that six followers were also hanged, citing unidentified sources. In all, 12 followers had been on death row with Asahara for the crimes, which killed 27 people. Asahara was 63 years old.
The 1995 subway attack was the most audacious. Members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult punctured plastic bags to release sarin nerve gas inside train cars, killing 13 people and sickening more than 6,000.
Founded in 1984, the cult attracted many young people, even graduates of top universities, whom Asahara hand-picked as close aides.
The cult amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons to carry out Asahara’s escalating criminal orders in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.
The cult claimed 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 in Russia. It has disbanded, though nearly 2,000 people follow its rituals in three splinter groups, monitored by authorities.
Suga said authorities are taking precautionary measures in case of any retaliation by his followers
His followers claimed their guru, who dressed in Chinese-style pyjama tunics, had extra-sensory powers and could levitate for hours at a time.
In 1990, Asahara and a group of followers ran unsuccessfully for the parliamentary election, and after the failed bid he became increasingly violent.
In June 1994, Aum members released sarin in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto at night, killing eight people, but the attack was not initially linked to the cult.
The group went on developing their chemical weapons, and on March 20, 1995, released sarin at several points across the Tokyo subway during the morning rush hour.
The attack shocked the world and prompted a massive crackdown that saw Asahara and some of his followers arrested.
He was on death row for the attack and other crimes from 2006, after a lengthy prosecution during which he regularly delivered rambling and incoherent monologues in English and Japanese.
Twelve other Aum members were also sentenced to death over the 1995 attack and other crimes.
The Aum cult, now renamed Aleph, officially disowned Asahara in 2000, but experts believe his influence remains strong, with some members using pictures of him and recordings of his voice for meditation.
And there have been fears that Asahara’s execution could usher in a replacement “guru.”