Profiles of the 7 doomsday cult members executed in Japan
TOKYO – Japan executed the leader and six followers of a doomsday cult Friday for a series of deadly crimes including a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people in 1995. A brief look at the executed:
SHOKO ASAHARA, 63, founded the Aum Shinrikyo cult by mixing religions and social disillusionment to attract followers, many of them top university graduates working in science and medicine. They ran sham computer and health-food businesses and collected donations to amass wealth to buy land and equipment. Asahara was convicted in the subway attack; a deadly 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Japan; the 1989 killing of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family and six other murder cases. During his eight years on trial, Asahara rarely spoke and never acknowledged responsibility or apologized.
TOMOMASA NAKAGAWA, 55, had been a doctor and helped the cult produce sarin and VX nerve agents. He was convicted in 11 crimes in which more than 20 people were killed. Nakagawa reportedly made an early identification of VX as the method used to assassinate the North Korean leader’s half brother in February 2017. Japanese media reported he sent a letter to toxicologist Anthony Tu, who has investigated the cult’s crimes, in which Nakagawa wrote that VX was a possibility before Malaysian investigators announced their findings in the death of Kim Jong Nam.
MASAMI TSUCHIYA, 53, was a key figure in Aum’s production of sarin and other deadly weapons. A chemist who studied at the Tsukuba University graduate school, Tsuchiya joined the cult in 1991 through a yoga class he took as treatment for whiplash he suffered in a car accident. He headed the cult’s sarin development and production and was convicted for producing sarin, VX and other chemical weapons. Initially Tsuchiya expressed strong attachment to Asahara’s teachings but later apologized to the victims and urged Asahara to tell the truth.
SEIICHI ENDO, 58, graduated from a veterinary school in Hokkaido and studied virus and genetic engineering at Kyoto University graduate school before joining the cult. Asahara ordered him to produce sarin, but Endo said in court he did so without knowing its purpose. He also worked on botulism but failed to develop it into a biological weapon. Endo was convicted in two sarin attacks and an attempted VX attack.
YOSHIHIRO INOUE, 48, was known as the cult’s “genius of training” and headed its intelligence unit. He rose quickly to become Asahara’s right-hand man and was the coordinator of the subway attacks. Inoue became critical of Asahara later and testified as a trial witness for prosecutors, though his statements flip-flopped. His testimony that Asahara ordered the subway gas attack was a determining factor in holding Asahara responsible. He filed for retrial in March 2018 in a last-ditch effort to gain immunity from execution.
TOMOMITSU NIIMI, 54, led a unit of the cult responsible for capturing members who tried to escape. He also was a getaway driver who helped one of the cult members flee after releasing gas in the subway. He was sentenced to death for that attack and other crimes. Throughout his trial, Niimi continued to show loyalty to Asahara and called the crimes “murders based on religious intent.”
KIYOHIDE HAYAKAWA, 68, was the only one executed who was not involved in the subway attack. He earned a master’s degree in city engineering and landed a job in a major construction company before joining Aum in 1987 as one of its earliest members. Hayakawa had an interest in pseudoscience and UFOs. As the cult’s “construction minister,” Hayakawa was responsible for land acquisition and expansion. He oversaw an effort to make machine guns and the purchase of weapons and a helicopter via Russia. He was convicted in the 1989 murders of the anti-Aum lawyer and his family. AP
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