Japan executes six cult members
TOKYO – Agence France-Presse
Japan on July 26 executed six more members of the cult behind the deadly 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway, weeks after the group’s leader was hanged.
Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa confirmed that the six Aum Shinrikyo cult members remaining on death row had been executed on July 26.
“I ordered the executions after extremely careful consideration,” she said at a press conference.
The executions come after authorities hanged “guru” Shoko Asahara and six of his one-time followers earlier this month, after years on death row.
Those affected by the Aum’s crimes said it would be hard to simply move on.
“With the 13 members executed, perhaps the case is closed from the point of view of criminal justice,” Shizue Takahashi, whose husband was killed in the subway attack, told reporters.
“[But] the damage done to the victims continues even after the executions. I find it very hard.”
The additional executions had been widely expected, and while Japan is one of the few developed nations to retain the death penalty, public support for it remains high despite international criticism.
“I think we can’t avoid capital punishment for those who have committed extremely heinous crimes,” Kamikawa said.
Local media said authorities wanted to execute all Aum members on death row before the country’s emperor abdicates next year, which will start a new imperial era.
As the Aum’s crimes were committed within the Heisei era of the current emperor, authorities wanted the executions to be carried out before the new era begins, local media said.
The Aum gained international infamy with the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway during rush hour, which killed 13 people and injured thousands more.
The attack plunged the capital into chaos, and prompted a crackdown on the cult’s headquarters in the foothills of Mount Fuji.