Mar 24, 2018

Tokyo residents protest against doomsday cult’s successor group

South China Morning Post
March 24, 2018

Renamed Aum Shinrikyo group target of angry demonstration to mark anniversary of subway sarin gas attack.

More than 200 people living near a Tokyo base of the main successor to the Aum Shinrikyo cult took to the streets on Saturday demanding the group disbands, with the execution of its guru and a number of former disciples seemingly imminent.

The residents marched around the Adachi Ward compound owned by Aleph, led by Adachi Mayor Yayoi Kondo who held a banner saying, “Absolutely against Aum.”

The demonstration was planned to coincide with the recent 23rd anniversary of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 people and injured over 6,200, the worst of several attacks and crimes carried out by Aum followers.

Aum renamed itself Aleph in 2000 and two additional splinter groups formed. The Public Security Intelligence Agency continued to monitor the groups, believing they are still under the influence of Aum founder Shoko Asahara who is on death row along with 12 of his former disciples.

Residents of Kawaguchi, a Saitama Prefecture city adjoining Adachi Ward, and some from Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward where a facility of one of the splinter groups is located, joined Saturday’s demonstration.

According to the agency, the three groups have 1,650 followers in Japan, with 1,470 of them Aleph members.

The 13 death row inmates could be hanged anytime as the Aum-related trials over a series of crimes that left 29 people dead concluded in January.

“I’m worried what could happen after the executions,” said Hisashi Mizukami, who represents a group of Adachi residents protesting Aleph. “We will remain vigilant.”

Japan marks anniversary of Tokyo subway gas attack as 13 cult members brace for word they’ll be sent to the gallows.

Tuesday marks 23 years since members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult punctured plastic bags to release sarin nerve gas inside subway cars, sickening thousands and killing 13.

Japan on Tuesday marked the 23rd anniversary of a deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo metro, as speculation grows that members of the cult behind it could soon be executed.

At a solemn ceremony at Kasumigaseki station, one of the targets of the 1995 attacks which is surrounded by key government buildings, Tokyo subway staff gathered to observe a moment of silence and offer flowers.

Thirteen people were killed and thousands more injured when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult dumped bags of sarin on packed rush hour trains, piercing the pouches with sharpened umbrella tips before fleeing.

The nerve agent caused horrendous deaths and injuries, and prompted mass panic, turning Japan’s busy capital city into something resembling a war zone.

Passengers streamed out of stations vomiting, coughing and struggling to breathe, with emergency services administering life-saving treatment by the side of the road.

Ambulances screamed through the streets, and helicopters landed on major roads to assist the evacuation of those affected.

On that day, Tokyo Metro worker Kazumasa Takahashi unwittingly picked up a punctured packet of the nerve gas from the floor of one of the trains at Kasumigaseki station.

He and another colleague died.

“I came here today, with the same feeling I have every year,” his widow Shizue told reporters at the station after paying tribute to her late husband.

“The health of some victims is deteriorating and some families are also going through a tremendously difficult time,” she said, adding that the passage of time had not healed the pain suffered by victims’ families.

After years of legal proceedings, the prosecution of 13 Aum Shinrikyo members on death row for the attacks and other crimes finally concluded in January, clearing the way for their execution.

Last week, authorities began separating and transferring them to different detention facilitiesequipped with the infrastructure to carry out executions by hanging.

The transfers have prompted speculation that cult leader Shoko Asahara and the 12 of his followers on death row could soon be executed, though there has been no official indication.

Japanese authorities usually announce executions after the fact, with no advance warning.

Even prisoners sent to the gallows are not notified until guards come to their cells in the morning. After a chat with a chaplain, a last bite or smoke, the prisoner is taken to the gallows.

If all subway attack convicts are hanged, it would be largest number executed on a single day in Japan’s modern history.

Japan on January 24, 1911, hanged 11 political prisoners who allegedly plotted to assassinate the emperor.

Shizue Takahashi said the fast speed of transfers initially startled her, but stressed that the executions must proceed in due course.

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