Japan executes Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult

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

Japanese media reports say doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara, who has been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing and other crimes, has been executed.

Asahara had been on death row for masterminding a 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes. Other members from bottom left to right, Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomitsu Nimi, and Kiyohide Hayakawa.

A facility of Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult led by its guru Shoko Asahara in Kamikuishiki in Kamikucishiki, Japan.

He was on death row for about 14 years.

Asahara was one of seven members of the cult hanged this week.

Since an effective moratorium ended in 2010, Japan has executed as many as eight people a year.

Police leave an Aum Shinrikyo compound in the small village of Kamikuishiki at the foot of Mount Fuji on March 28, 1995. Matsumoto, also known under the alias Shoko Asahara, is reportedly the first of 13 individuals scheduled to be executed for their roles in orchestrating the 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway.

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 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 attack killed 13 people and injured 5,500. In detention, he also refused to meet his family and lawyers from 2008. Victims, families and their supporters, as well as those involved in the legal system believe it is necessary to come to terms with the crimes and draw lessons from them to avoid a similar incident happening again.

"These crimes ... plunged people not only in Japan but in other countries as well into deadly fear and shook society to its core", Kamikawa said.

"I reacted calmly. But I did feel the world had become slightly brighter", said Atsushi Sakahara, a film director who was injured in the sarin attack at Tokyo's Roppongi station.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said police have increased vigilance toward the cult's successor organization, Aleph, following the executions.

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

Asahara was sentenced to death after a lengthy prosecution during which he regularly delivered rambling and incoherent monologues in English and Japanese. At its peak, Asahara had tens of thousands of followers worldwide. There are 117 convicts on death row. Last year, a court ruled that the Aum Shinrikyo no longer posed a threat to the public.

AUM evolved from a yoga school established by Asahara in 1984 and had about 1,400 live-in followers and over 10,000 lay followers at one point.

The cult has since been renamed Aleph, with an estimated 2,000 members watched closely by authorities, according to the Associated Press.

"These acts breach the right to life and the right to live free from torture", Amnesty said in a recent report. "Now, I can pay a visit to her grave and tell her of this".

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