News & Opinion | July 10, 2018 9:00 am

Japan Executes Terrorist Leader Who Orchestrated Tokyo Nerve Gas Attack

Leader of apocalyptic cult Aum Shinrikyo was convicted of killing dozens of people.

Shoko Asahara, leader of the cult group Aum Shinrikyo, during his visit to Moscow, Russia, on 17th February 1994. (Wojtek Laski/Getty Images)
Getty Images

According to Japan’s Ministry of Justice, Shoko Asahara (real name: Chizou Matsumoto), the leader of Japan’s apocalyptic neo-Buddhist cult Aum Shinrikyo, was hanged by the neck until dead on Thursday for his role in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway that resulted in the death of at least 29 people. Six other leaders of the cult have also been executed. Asahara’s death sentence had been finalized in 2006, but the Japanese government only carries out executions after all appeals and related court cases have been exhausted. It is unclear why these executions took place now, reports The Daily Beast. 

When Asahara was leader of Aum Shinrikyo, he said that killing opponents was “cleaning karma.” He also planned other acts of mass destruction. The group, which was virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic, had become a threat to other countries, including the United States and had used offices in the U.S. to prepare for large scale attacks in Japan and a future attack in New York. The Daily Beast reports that Aum still exits today, just under different names. Six more members of Aum Shinrikyo remain on death row.