Cult leader in Tokyo sarin attack executed along with 6 followers

Police officers stand guard in front of Tokyo Detention Center where former leader of Aum the Japanese doomsday cult Chizuo Matsumoto who went by the name Shoko Asahara was executed in Tokyo Japan

Asahara and five of the six executed were implicated in the subway attack, which occured during the morning rush hour of March 20, 1995 when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult punctured plastic bags to release sarin nerve gas inside subway cars, killing 13 people and sickening more than 6,000.

He was sentenced to death in 2004 for the attack and other crimes including another sarin gas attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, which killed eight people and injured more than 100 others.

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

They were criticized by rights group Amnesty International, which described the cult's acts as "despicable" but said "the death penalty is never the answer".

"We should have heard more stories from the people involved and deepened discussions in society to get to the bottom as to why such crimes related to religion happened", Ogawara said. The cult's activities in various parts of Japan sparked anxiety years after the sarin gas attack.

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.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said only that the Justice Ministry would make an announcement later Friday.

13 people died in the attack, and more than 6,000 were made sick.




Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had been in prison for 22 years before his execution this week.

It renamed itself Aleph in 2000 and two splinter groups have been formed, including one established by high-profile former member Fumihiro Joyu.

Japanese police tightened security Friday after the executions of the founder and six former senior members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult earlier in the day fanned fears about potential retaliation by followers.

Asahara was sentenced to death after a lengthy prosecution during which he regularly delivered rambling and incoherent monologues in English and Japanese.

Asahara and dozens of his followers were arrested in the months that followed, after police raids across the country.

"As I also bear a heavy responsibility, I would like to apologize to the victims", he said, although adding, "I have left Aleph more than 10 years ago, and I don't have any special feelings (for Asahara)". Despite this, over 2,000 members of another offshoot cult still follow the teachings of Shoko Asahara.

The legal proceedings had been dragged out, but recent Japanese media reports said the executions were expected.

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.

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