> Japan executed a former leader of a Japanese doomsday cult on Friday, as well as six other members of the group known as Aum Shinrikyo. It was a cult that carried out a deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway 23 years ago. That event was the worst terror attack Japan has ever faced, leaving 13 dead and injuring more than 6,000 people during rush hour in 1995.
According to Japanese media, cult leader Shoko Asahara was the first of 13 scheduled to be hanged after his death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court a decade ago. However, the executions themselves came with little official warning. Reuters Elaine Lies in Tokyo explains why.>> In Japan, they don't tell the person when they're gonna be executed ahead of time.
And the idea is that all of a sudden, one morning, they come in and say okay, this is the day and that it happens within hours. So this has caught the attention of a lot of human rights groups. In the United States, of course, which is the only other advanced democracy that has the death penalty.
Now, they have time to have a last meal, they have time to meet their families, they have time with a religious person, if they want it. But in Japan, it just comes like that.
Asahara founded the Aum cult in 1987. He declared himself to be Christ, with tens of thousands of members worldwide at the group's peak.
He convinced people the US would attack Japan, turn it into a nuclear wasteland, and that only the cult would survive. His followers practiced bizarre rituals at the foot of Mount Fuji and also built an arsenal of weapons, including the sarin used in the attack.>> We didn't think in those terms then but it was almost like a 9/11 moment for Japan, Tokyo.
Every major city, the subway is a lifeline but I think in Tokyo, it may be even more so. Millions of people come into the city everyday on these to go to work, to go to the government and so it was an absolutely major impact.>> The cult went underground after the 1995 attack but didn't disappear with branches of the cult renaming themselves Aleph and Hikari no Wa.
Both of them are legal but are still officially tagged as dangerous religions.