Japan hangs doomsday cult members who attacked subway with sarin

Shoko Asahara whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto

Shoko Asahara whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto

Doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara and several followers were executed Friday for their roles in a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes, Japanese media reported. Scores of Aum Shinrikyo members have faced trial over the attack - 13 were sentenced to death, including Asahara, according to BBC News.

He was among 13 people placed on death row in connection with the series of crimes perpetrated by the doomsday cult.

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 Aum cult, now renamed Aleph, officially disowned Asahara in 2000, but it was never banned.

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.

The move drew sharp criticism from some lawmakers as well as Amnesty International, which called capital punishment "the ultimate denial of human rights".

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.

Despite the horror that persists over the Aum's subway attack and other crimes, some experts had warned against the execution of Asahara and his acolytes. They included three scientists who led the production of the sarin gas and a man who drove a getaway vehicle.

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Even before the attack, in 1989, lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, who opposed the cult, his wife and baby boy were murdered by cult members.

The ministry said that as of Friday, the number of death-row inmates with their sentences finalized was at 117, one of whom is under retrial.

He masterminded a horrific attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, where his cultists released sarin gas inside a packed train.

The sarin had been released in liquid form on five subway carriages at different points throughout the network.

It goes without saying that the other six members of Aum Shinrikyo will equally face the same fate in the near future.

They said his death could trigger the naming of a new cult leader, possibly his second son, and his followers could be elevated to the status of "martyrs" among the remaining adherents.

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

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 goal of the crimes were too outrageous and ridiculous, as he tried to control Japan in the name of salvation".

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