Japanese cult leader Shoko Asahara executed over deadly sarin attack on Tokyo subway

Asahara was the first of 13 scheduled to be hanged for the attacks

Henry Austin
Friday 06 July 2018 07:08 BST
Japanese Justice Minister talks about the seven cult members executed over deadly sarin attack on Tokyo subway

The former leader of a Japanese doomsday cult that carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, has been executed.

Chizuo Matsumoto, who went by the name Shoko Asahara, was the first of 13 scheduled to be hanged for the attacks, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The Aum Shinri Kyo, or Aum Supreme Truth cult, which mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings, staged a series of crimes including simultaneous sarin gas attacks on Tokyo subway trains during rush hour in March 1995.

The attacks with the nerve agent that was originally developed by the Nazis, left 13 dead and injured more than 6,000. The victims, some of whom were left disabled and blinded, were struck down in a matter of seconds.

Members of the cult later tried and failed to release hydrogen cyanide in various subway stations.

They were following instructions from the Asahara, who claimed to be a reincarnation of the Hindu god Shiva and promised to lead his followers to salvation when impending Armageddon arrived.

At various points he also declared himself to be both Christ and the first "enlightened one" since Buddha.

Almost blind, after leaving school and failing to get into university, he began a career in Chinese medicine.

He founded Aum Shinrikyo after a pilgrimage to the Himalayas in 1987 and changed his name shortly afterwards. Aum is a sacred Hindu symbol and Shinrikyo means "supreme truth".

It is thought that it had 10,000 followers at its peak and the group gained official status as a religious organisation in Japan just two years after it was formed.

Drawing wealthy and well educated members, Ashara told them he was telepathic and he could teach them levitation. He would charge them to drink his bathwater and blood.

But he later told members that a global war would break out and only he could save them from a doomsday scenario.

After the subway attack, it was revealed that the group made numerous attempts in the early 1990s to buy and manufacture chemical weapons.

Under Japanese law, a death sentence cannot be carried out until every appeal against both the accused and their accomplices has been concluded.

That was the case after the country's supreme court upheld a life sentence against one member in January.

This meant Asahara could finally be executed by hanging.

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