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10th Aum Shinrikyo death sentence anniversary

February 27, 2014 - JAPAN

Chizuo Matsumoto, the blind founder of the doomsday Aum Shinrikyo cult that spread terror with sarin nerve gas attacks two decades ago, was sentenced to death by hanging on 27 Feb 2004.

Ten years on, the Japanese legal system is delaying his date with the hangman. Matsumoto, who went by the name of Shoko Asahara when he led the cult, was convicted of masterminding more than 10 crimes that killed a total of 27 people, including 12 in the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in Mar 1995 and eight in a sarin attack on a residential area in Jun 1994. The appeal process is buying him time, and so is Japan's custom of refraining from executing prisoners when the trials of their accomplices are pending because the condemned person could be summoned to testify. The trials of three former Aum members have yet to start. Matsumoto's defense might also move to an insanity plea; executions must be suspended for inmates deemed insane.

Profile: Shoko Asahara (BBC 2004)

Ministry frustrated by delays Ashai Shimbum 31 Jul 2013)

Date written/update: 2014-01-20