Japan hanged Chizuo Matsumoto, founder of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo (anti-Aum protest pictured), and six of his close followers on Friday, 23 years after the group’s sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway system during morning rush-hour left 13 dead and scores injured, agencies report.
Matsumoto, 63, also known as Shoko Asahara, and 12 cult members were sentenced to death for crimes that killed 27 people and injured thousands of people in the 1980s and 1990s.
The executions of the first batch of Aum members were delayed because all trials related to the cult concluded only in January this year. Japan does not execute people on death row until the sentences of all those involved in a crime are completed.
Matsumoto was executed at the Tokyo Detention House 18 years after his sentencing. His six top aides were hanged in detention houses in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima or Fukuoka.
Some people expressed regret over their hangings. They argued that these criminals could give an insight into the workings of their minds for experts to formulate steps to guard against terrorists.
Others said Matsumoto should be spared the noose as he was almost blind and mentally and physically sick. But the Tokyo detention centre and courts said he was perfectly healthy.
A few others argued that Matsumoto’s death could prompt members of the Aum cult, now renamed Aleph, to choose a new guru to lead the group.
Japan’s Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Aum members were responsible for unprecedented acts of violence that should never happen again.
When the Aum movement was at its peak, it had over 11,000 members in Japan, including graduates from some of the country’s elite universities. The group also had members in Germany, Russia and the US.