Leader Of Japanese Cult Aum Shinrikyo Executed For 1995 Attack

Shoko Asahara guru of the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult October 1 1990

Shoko Asahara guru of the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult October 1 1990 Credit JIJI PRESS AFP

In June 1994, the cult spread sarin gas in Matsumoto in central Japan, killing eight people and injuring more than 140 others, in an attack targeting residents who were protesting the cult's presence in their neighborhood and court officials handling their legal disputes. Kamikawa announced the deaths on Friday at a press conference, saying, "These crimes. plunged people not only in Japan but in other countries as well into deadly fear and shook society to its core".

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.

Fumihiro Joyu, who served as the spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo but has distanced himself from Asahara in the last decade, told reporters that he was relieved.

Minoru Kariya, whose father was tortured to death by cult members in 1995 as he tried to get his brother to leave the cult, didn't see the point of keeping Asahara alive and wondering when his execution might be.

The religion persists and has since split into the renamed Aleph and Hikari no Wa groups. Security forces were criticized for allowing the gas attacks to happen.

This September 1995 photo shows cult leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

His founded the Aum Shinrikyo cult in 1984 and propagated a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism with the Christian Bible's Book of Revelations for an ideology that was obsessed with the end of the world.

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.

Some family members of the cult's victims are more interested in those answers than they are in retribution.

Aum Shinrikyo followers chant before a portrait of guru Shoko Asahara on July 19, 1999, at Aum's Adachi office in Tokyo.

Even so, Friday's execution of the seven death row inmates reflected the Justice Ministry's sensitivity not only to the feelings of victims and their families, but a strong public resentment against the deadly crimes perpetrated by him.

"The execution of Asahara's followers risks elevating them to "martyrs" in the eyes of remaining cult adherents", warned Taro Takimoto, a lawyer for relatives of cultists.

It is extremely complex to label the religious fundamentals of Aum Shinrikyo.

His hanging was the first execution in connection with the March 20, 1995 attack which shocked the world and prompted a massive crackdown on the cult. Asahara was captured two months after the subway attack, found hiding in a ceiling compartment.

The sarin gas attack killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000.

Following reports of the executions, Joyu reiterated his apology to people affected by AUM but said he is no longer part of the original cult.

The sarin gas was released by members of Aum Shinrikyo. According to Asahara's defense team, a group of senior followers initiated the atrocities and kept them a secret from Asahara.

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