Three major cases involving the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult

Minnie Murray
July 9, 2018

Asahara, also known as Chizuo Matsumoto, declared himself to be both Christ and the first "enlightened one" since Buddha.

Subway passengers affected by sarin nerve gas in the central Tokyo subway trains are carried into St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo.

But it was the Tokyo subway attack on March 20, 1995, and the images of rush-hour commuters lying dead or staggering from the effects of sarin, that shocked the nation and woke it up to the dangers of a cult that was based on a huge commune at the foot of Mount Fuji.

Fire fighters in protective suits approach Kasumigaseki subway station following a sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Tokyo on March 20, 1995.

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

Fortunately, mistakes made in developing the sarin and its delivery method meant the attack was far less effective than intended, and the group only succeeded in killing 12 and injuring 5,500 people.

The BBC stipulates, "Seven members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which carried out a deadly chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 have been executed, including cult leader Shoko Asahara".

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

She said the crime affected not only Japan but also sowed fear overseas. The attack killed 13 people and injured 5,500.

The Aum Shinrikyo was founded by Asahara, who was virtually blind, in 1987 and mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings. Those executed learn their fate only when they are taken to the gallows.

Two days after the attack police raided the compounds of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

Six of the seven, including Asahara, had been implicated in the subway attack.

At a time when the global trend is toward abolishing capital punishment, Japan's death penalty system has sparked worldwide criticism, especially over the secrecy surrounding its executions, and prompted critics to push for its abolition.

Yuji Ogawara, who heads a lawyers' group against the death penalty at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said the executions do not bring closure to Aum's crimes.

Executions are rare in Japan but surveys show most people support the death sentence.

But Kofler said "despite the seriousness of this crime the German government stands by its principled rejection of the death penalty as an inhumane and cruel form of punishment" that should be abolished worldwide.

He said that more than 10 years after he left the cult, he had "no special feeling" for Asahara, but had still been somewhat nervous about the potential repercussions for criticizing him in public.

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