Shoko Asahara, the former leader of a Japanese doomsday cult, was executed recently. However, the claim to his ashes has brewed a fight between his family members.
Asahara’s remains have been kept under extended security at the Tokyo detention center where he was executed, in fears they may be used as inspiration to retaliate against his hanging.
The cult leader, who inspired thousands — often well-educated — individuals with a mix of religious teachings and doomsday predictions during his time as the founder and leader of Aum Shinrikyo, was the mastermind behind the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack in 1995 which left 13 dead and thousands injured.
Now, his estranged fourth daughter claims the rights to her father’s cremated remains, saying he specified to guards before his execution that she should be the one getting the ashes.
Asahara’s wife and three other daughters negated those claims and submitted a request for the ashes to be handed over to them, citing the cult leader was not lucid to make such demands before his hanging.
The cult leader’s fourth daughter had formerly announced that she had cut all ties with Aum Shinrikyo and her family members.
Asahara’s wife, a former senior member of Aum Shinrikyo, is now part of a splinter cult.
While the cult has split into Hikari no Wa and Aleph, authorities believe many followers still idolize Asahara, drawing inspiration from his audios and photographs.
Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult leader Shoko Asahara, along with six other members, responsible for the deadly sarin gas attack at the Tokyo subway in 1995 has been executed, according to Japanese officials.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, had been on the death row for almost 12 years before finally being executed for the heinous attack that left 13 people dead and thousands injured.
Six other members executed along with their leader were: Tomomasa Nakagawa, Tomomitsu Niimi, Kiyohide Hayakawa, Yoshihiro Inoue, Seiichi Endo and Masami Tsuchiya, according to Japanese Justice Minister Yoko Kawakami. Six others still await their executions.
Asahara rose to popularity in 1984 after he founded Aum Shinrikyo. He attracted disciples with traditional religious teachings and new age tactics, combined with the forecast of the upcoming doomsday. He predicted apocalypse would come after the U.S. attacked Japan and turned it into a nuclear badlands.
As the cult’s following grew, which included highly educated scientists and engineers, stories began circulating about brainwashing and abuse within Aum Shinrikyo.
However, no one could have predicted what happened next.
The cult garnered international disrepute after its horrendous attack that killed 12 people on the scene at the Tokyo subway and injured 5,500 others. Another victim succumbed to injuries in the hospital.
Although, Aum Shinrikyo’s killings started way before the 1995 subway attack.
In November 1989, lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto — who was working on a case against the cult — was murdered along with his family. According to the prosecutors, cult members entered the lawyer’s family home while they were sleeping and injected him, his wife and infant son with lethal doses of potassium chloride and strangled them.
After Sakomoto’s murder and the cult’s growing notoriety amid cult members’ families’ protests, Aum Shinrikyo reportedly began preparing for the end.
Cult scientist began testing sarin at a sheep farm in rural Western Australia while others launched a failed attempt to manufacture automatic rifles.
As a sordid preview to the subway attack, on June 27, 1994, seven people were killed and more than 500 injured after the cult released sarin gas via a truck driving slowly around an apartment complex in Japan’s Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture.
Eight months later, the horrific events of the 1995 attack unfolded.
Five cult members boarded three different trains at the Tokyo subway station during rush hour in March 1995. Aiming to kill all on board, the Aum Shinrikyo members pierced bags filled with sarin through sharpened umbrella tips.
The trains were to make a scheduled stop at the Kasumigaseki station within four minutes. Had the attack been carried out without mistakes, not only would it have killed thousands on board but also the people on the station waiting to get on. However, mistakes in the development of the gas and holes in the execution of the plan spared thousands of lives.
In 1996, Asahara admitted to the responsibility of the attack, however, he said “God instructed him” to take blame and he was not to be held personally responsible for it.
Aum Shinrikyo split into Hikari no Wa and Aleph in 2007.
Japanese executions take place without any further warning. Many of the victim’s families were not happy they were not informed of the decision and wanted more answers related to the attack prior to the executions.
"When I think of those who died because of them, it was a pity (my husband's) parents and my parents could not hear the news of this execution," said Shizue Takahashi, a victims’ group representative and widow of a Tokyo Metro employee who died in the sarin attack. "I wanted (cult members) to confess more about the incident, so it's a pity that we cannot hear their account anymore."
Banner / Thumbnail : Kyodo / via REUTERS