Executed for sarin attacks, cult leader remains a mystery


Associated Press

TOKYO

The execution of Japanese doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara leaves unanswered questions about Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people and sickened 6,000.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga confirmed that Asahara was executed Friday. The authorities said six other cult members were hanged.

Born Chizuo Matsumoto in 1955, Asahara founded Aum Shinrikyo, or Supreme Truth, in the mid-1980s. It attracted young people disillusioned with the modern materialistic way of life.

Half-blind, with a shaggy hair and beard, Asahara was the key figure in the stunningly random and lethal attack targeting Tokyo commuters.

He used a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and yoga to draw followers. They took part in bizarre rituals, such as drinking his bathwater and wearing electrical caps they believed synchronized their brain waves with Asahara’s.

Asahara chose doctors, lawyers and scientists from Japan’s top universities as his top aides, making them ministers of his pseudo-government of the Aum empire.

During his trial, Asahara often used diapers and sat on a cushion intended to make his incontinence inconspicuous. He stopped communicating with his children and defense team.

A court-appointed psychiatrist suggested he might be faking insanity to avoid punishment. The initial death sentence in 2004 became final after his defense team could not file an appeal citing his mental state.

The reasons behind the sarin gas attack remain an enigma.

Cult members have said they believed Asahara’s prophesy that an apocalypse was coming and they alone would survive it.

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