Japan cult leader's hanging closes chapter on shocking crime

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The leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which carried out the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, has been executed, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

He masterminded a horrific attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, where his cultists released sarin gas inside a packed train.

The subway attack was the most notorious of the cult's crimes, which was blamed for 27 deaths in all.

The group had 11,400 members in Japan, including graduates from some of the country's elite universities, at the time of the subway attack, as well as members in Germany, Russia and the United States.

Tokyo residents who lived through the chaos and horror of nerve gas being released on the city's subway lines during rush hour on March 20, 1995, have expressed relief tinged with concern after the execution of Shoko Asahara on Friday morning.

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

As the cult grew, the families of members began to raise the alarm, and complaints of brainwashing and abuse within Aum Shinrikyo became more common.

The Japanese Tribunal has prosecuted about 190 cult members for the attacks and other related crimes, including the 1989 murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, and passed six life sentences and 13 death sentences.

Despite the horror that persists over the Aum's subway attack and other crimes, some experts had warned against the execution of Asahara and his acolytes.

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Asahara, whose original name was Chizuo Matsumoto, founded Aum Shinrikyo in 1984.

Japanese authorities said they were on alert for potential retaliation after the executions and local media reported police were visiting groups linked to the Aum and successor cults.

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

Following reports of the executions, Joyu reiterated his apology to people affected by AUM but said he is no longer part of the original cult.

In a rare interview in 2006, two of Asahara's four daughters told The Associated Press that never in dozens of visits to him in prison had they had a real conversation.

They said his death could trigger the naming of a new cult leader, possibly his second son, and his followers could be elevated to the status of "martyrs" among the remaining adherents.

In 2016, police in Russian Federation conducted a number of raids on suspected cult members in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The trains were scheduled to arrive at central Kasumigaseki station within four minutes of each other, and the cult hoped not only to kill everyone on board, but also use the trains to deliver the gas to a massive interchange used by thousands of passengers at a time.