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Politics

Rejected appeal closes the book on cult that gassed Tokyo subway

But Aum Shinrikyo has rebranded and is still active in Japan and beyond

Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- The last of the court proceedings involving former members of Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, has ended more than two decades after criminal investigations began. But the group itself remains active under a different name, with a presence across Japan and even in Russia.

The Supreme Court upheld the life sentence of ex-Aum member Katsuya Takahashi in a decision dated Thursday. Takahashi was involved in the 1995 attack that killed 13 and injured more than 6,000, as well as attacks using the VX nerve agent and the kidnapping and murder of the head of a Tokyo notary office.

Aum-related court proceedings were thought to have concluded in 2011. But Takahashi and two other former members were arrested the following year. A total of 192 people have now been tried in connection with the group's crimes. Thirteen have been sentenced to death, including founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

The death penalty in Japan is typically not carried out until all accomplices have been tried. With Thursday's decision, the focus now shifts to when Asahara and others will be executed.

The group was also responsible for such crimes as the 1989 murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family, as well as a 1994 sarin attack in the city of Matsumoto. Aum lost its status as a religious entity following Asahara's arrest. It was later renamed Aleph and remains in operation, as does splinter group Hikari no Wa.

Roughly 30 Aleph members broke off into yet another splinter group in 2015, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency. The three entities together have 34 facilities across 15 prefectures and 1,650 members in Japan. Another 460 members are said to be in Russia.

The three groups are believed to share the common goal of spreading Asahara's teachings. The intelligence agency considers them effectively a single entity.

(Nikkei)

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