Final appeal relating to Tokyo subway sarin attack dismissed by Japan's High Court
Sept 8, 2016
Japan's High Court has dismissed a final appeal in the last criminal trial relating to a sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995, paving the way for 13 of those responsible to be put to death by hanging.
It has been 21 years since five men released the deadly nerve agent in carriages of crowded commuter trains during Tokyo's morning rush-hour.
The cult had prepared at a remote sheep station it owned in Western Australia
Twelve people died, 50 people were left permanently injured, and thousands of others were temporarily blinded by the gas.
The perpetrators were all members of a religious cult known as Aum Shinrikyo, which means "supreme truth".
- Aum Shinrikyo cult released sarin gas on a Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12
- The head of the cult was found guilty in 2004, but his execution was postponed
- Japan's High Court has now dismissed a final appeal in the last criminal trial relating to the attack
The cult had prepared for the attack at a remote sheep station it owned in Western Australia.
The sarin gas attack in Tokyo is regarded as the first ever use of a weapon of mass destruction in an act of terrorism.
The perpetrators of the crime thought they were carrying out a holy act in line with the beliefs of the doomsday cult.
The prosecutors of the criminal trials believe that day was chosen to divert the attention of police who were planning a raid on the cult's headquarters.
The head of the cult, Shoko Asahara, was found guilty of masterminding the attacks in 2004 and sentenced to death by hanging, but his execution was postponed while the appeals of his fellow criminals were heard.
He is now 61 years old and spends his days in solitary confinement.
Hiromi Shimada, the author of a book about Aum Shinrikyo, said the next question would be when the 13 men facing the death penalty would go to the gallows.
"Since there are so many of them, I think it'll be difficult to execute all of them at once," he said.
"The Minister of Justice has to make the decision but it can't be carried out just by the minister's decision.
"I think the Government has to be involved also, so it's hard to the think the executions will happen all at once."
Cult leader's execution may be delayed
The gas attack crime in 1995 did not turn the cult's followers away from the faith.
Asahara devised the religion in his one-bedroom flat in Tokyo and based his teachings on a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism and declared himself to be the Christ.
After his imprisonment, Aum Shinrikyo split into two distinct groups, and the Japanese Government now regards those groups to be branches of what it calls a dangerous religion.
Some say the execution of the leader Asahara might now be delayed by the Government to prevent him being seen as a martyr by the remaining devotees.
Hiromi Shimada said very little was known about Asahara's condition in jail.
"We hardly hear what's going on inside the prison so I don't know in detail, but his daughter has published a memoir and wrote that perhaps her father has schizophrenia," he said.
"I think his mental condition has become worse over time."
Support for the death penalty in Japan has been falling over the years and there are usually only two or three executions carried out each year, and those are reserved for criminals who have committed multiple murders.
Asahara and his fellow perpetrators join about 100 other criminals who currently wait on death row.
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