Japan executes cult leader Shoko Asahara

Shoko Asahara, Image:BBC

The leader of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which carried out a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 has been executed.

Japan media are reporting that six other Aum Shinrikyo members have also been executed. The sarin attack, Japan’s worst terror incident, killed 13 people and injured thousands more. Another six members of the cult are still awaiting execution.

Shoko Asahara’s execution, at a Tokyo detention house on Friday morning, was confirmed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Japanese media reports said six followers were executed shortly after.

The executions had been postponed until all those convicted had completed their final appeals. That happened in January. Asahara was also accused of several other murders and an earlier sarin gas attack in 1994 which killed eight and left 600 injured.

On 20 March 1995, cult members released the sarin on the subway in the Japanese capital. They left punctured bags filled with liquid nerve agent on train lines going through Tokyo’s political district. Witnesses described noticing the leaking packages and soon afterwards feeling stinging fumes hitting their eyes. The toxin struck victims down in a matter of seconds, leaving them choking and vomiting, some blinded and paralysed. Thirteen people died.

In Japan, death sentences are not carried out until the verdict against all accused and accomplices are final, with no pending appeals left against any of the group. The trials against the cult members only wrapped up in January this year after the supreme court upheld the verdict against one member sentenced to life in prison.

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