Mar 13, 2018

Moving them nearer to execution, seven former AUM cult members transferred from Tokyo detention center to other facilities

Reporters gather in front of a detention center in Tokyo on Wednesday following reports that the Justice Ministry has started transferring seven former members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, who are now on death row, from the facility to detention centers in other areas.

MAR 14, 2018

The Justice Ministry began transferring seven of the 13 former Aum Shinrikyo cult members on death row from a Tokyo detention center to other facilities, sources close to the matter said Wednesday, likely moving them one step closer to execution.

As the Aum-related trials wrapped up in January, the ministry is believed to be considering when they should be hanged for the series of crimes they committed that left a total of 29 people dead.

According to the sources and support groups, the seven members are: Tomomasa Nakagawa, 55, Tomomitsu Niimi, 54, Yasuo Hayashi (currently Koike), 60, Kiyohide Hayakawa, 68, Yoshihiro Inoue, 48, Masato Yokoyama, 54, and Kazuaki Okazaki (currently Miyamae).

The founder of the cult, Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, remains at the Tokyo detention center, they said.

All 13 death row inmates linked to the doomsday cult had been housed in the Tokyo facility, including Asahara, 63, who masterminded the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack, one of Japan’s worst terrorist incidents. The strike on the Tokyo subway system killed 13 people and left more than 6,000 others ill.

There are execution facilities in Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. It is unclear to which facility the seven members were sent, the sources say.

Around 190 people with ties to the cult were indicted. In addition to the 13 sentenced to death, six others were given life sentences.

The 13 inmates were involved in the Tokyo subway attack, the 1989 murders of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, an anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and son, and another sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.

The first batch of trials ended when the ruling on former senior AUM member Seiichi Endo, 57, was finalized in December 2011 but the court actions resumed when three former Aum followers, who had been on the run for nearly 20 years, were arrested in 2012.

The series of trials finally came to a close in January after the Supreme Court upheld a high court life sentence on Katsuya Takahashi, 59, one of the three who had been on the run.

In Japan, it is customary not to hang death row inmates until the sentences of their accomplices are finalized.

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