Japanese Cult Leader Shoko Asahara, Mastermind Behind Deadly Tokyo Subway Gassing, Executed | TIME
Japan doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara executed for 1995 Tokyo attack
Cult leader Shoko Asahara was executed alongside six of his followers. Kyodo News via AP
- Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, was executed by hanging on Friday.
- He masterminded a horrific attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, where his cultists released sarin gas inside a packed train.
- 13 people died and 6,000 were left ill, making it the worst terrorist in Japanese history.
- The cult was preparing for the apocalypse, and had more than 10,000 members in Japan alone.
- Asahara was killed alongside six of his followers, who had all spent more than a decade on death row.
A Japanese doomsday cult leader who masterminded the worst terror attack in the country's history has been executed by hanging.
Shoko Asahara, who led a 1995 chemical weapons attack on the Tokyo subway, was killed alongside six other cultists on Friday, after more than a decade on death row.
He was the leader of the 40,000-strong Aum Shinrikyo cult, which sneaked plastic bags full of sarin nerve gas onto packed subway cars and burst them during the Monday morning rush hour.
13 people died in the attack, and more than 6,000 were made sick. The death toll makes it the worst terror attack in Japanese history, according to The Guardian.
At its peak, the group had 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 followers in Russia, It continues to exist, but in a much diminished form.
Yoko Kamikawa, Japan's justice minister, approved the hangings on Tuesday. Japan does not take executions lightly, she said at a press conference, but felt they were warranted by the seriousness of the crimes.
She said: "The fear, pain, and sorrow of the victims, survivors and their families — because of the heinous cult crimes — must have been so severe, and that is beyond my imagination."
Aum Shinrikyo killed a total of 27 people at its height. The Tokyo attack was preceded months earlier by a smaller-scale sarin attack in Matsumoto which killed eight people.
Along with Ashara, Japanese executioners killed two scientists who helped make the gas and one of the men who actually carried out the attack. Five were executed for their role in Tokyo subway attack, while another was executed for his role in the group's other crimes.
Six more cult members are still on death row, according to the Associated Press.
This photo from 1995 shows subway passengers affected by sarin nerve gas being carried into a hospital. (AP Photo/Chiaki Tsukum
Asahara founded Aum Shinrikyo ("Supreme Truth" in English) in 1984. Members included graduates of Japan's top universities, who were promised that they would survive a coming apocalypse.
The group amassed a stock of weapons - chemical, biological, and conventional - in preparation for a clash with the government. They mixed Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, and also incorporated parts of apocalyptic Christian thinking.
The cult has since been renamed Aleph, with an estimated 2,000 members watched closely by authorities, according to the Associated Press.
Asahara and some of his followers ran unsuccessfully for office in 1990 and became increasingly violent after the defeat, Hong Kong-based newspaper the South China Morning Post reports.
Kimiaki Nishida, a professor of social psychology at Rissho University in Tokyo, told the Post that "Asahara was talented at brainwashing."
He "lured young people, who felt a sense of emptiness in Japanese society," she said.
Human rights agencies opposed to the death sentence have condemned the executions.
Amnesty International said today that executions "do not deliver justice."
"Today's executions are unprecedented in recent memory for Japan. The attacks carried out by Aum were despicable and those responsible deserve to be punished. However, the death penalty is never the answer," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
Video: BREAKING! Doomsday Cult Leader Executed For 1995 Sarin Gas Attack On Tokyo Subway
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