Mastermind of deadly sarin gas attack in Tokyo executed

Japanese doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara had been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing

Japanese doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara had been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing

TOKYO-The head of a Japanese doomsday cult responsible for deadly gas attacks in the 1990s was executed on Friday, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Shoko Asahara's real name was Chizuo Matsumoto.

He was the leader of a doomsday cult who released sarin on five Tokyo subway trains on March 20 1995.

The attack shocked Japan, which prides itself on low crime rates and its multicultural society.

Atsushi Sakahara, who was injured in the attack, welcomed the executions.

The top Japanese government spokesman confirmed Asahara's execution but wouldn't comment on the others.

Though concerns about the Aum had already been raised, the attack prompted a massive crackdown on the cult's headquarters and the arrest of Asahara and other group members.

Friday's executions provided closure for family members of those killed, such as Kiyoe Iwata, whose daughter died in the subway attack.

As well as killing the 13, the attack injured at least 5,800 people, some permanently.

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Aum Shinrikyo is designated a terrorist organisation in the U.S. and many other countries, but Aleph and Hikari no Wa are both legal in Japan, although designated as "dangerous religions" subject to surveillance.

Over the years, the group managed to lure in followers from some of Japan's top universities and boasted some 10,000 followers in Japan and another 30,000 in Russian Federation.

More than 20 years of trials involving Aum members came to an end in January 2018 when Japan's supreme court upheld the life sentence of Katsuya Takahashi.

He pleaded not guilty and never testified, but muttered and made incoherent remarks in court during the eight years of his trial.

Asahara, 63, a partially blind former yoga instructor, believed that the United States would attack Japan with nuclear weapons, and that only cult members would survive World War III.

Some members lived in a commune-like complex Asahara established at the foot of Mount Fuji, where the group studied his teachings, practiced freaky rituals and gathered an arsenal of weapons - including sarin.

The others hanged Friday included two scientists who led the production of the sarin gas and one of the men who carried out the actual attack on the subway.

The cult also used sarin in 1994, releasing the gas in the central city of Matsumoto on a summer night in an attempt to kill three judges set to rule on it.

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

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