TOKYO – Thirteen members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult were hanged this month for crimes committed in the 1990s, culminating in sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people and sickened thousands. Some details about the condemned cult members:
EXECUTED THURSDAY FOR THE SUBWAY ATTACK:
— MASATO YOKOYAMA, 55, carried sarin in a plastic bag into the Marunouchi subway line, punctured the bag and fled. His actions seriously injured about 200 people among the 6,000 hurt by the five simultaneous attacks carried out during the morning rush hour on March 20, 1995. Yokoyama hardly spoke throughout the trial. He had studied applied physics at Tokai University and worked at an electronics company before leaving in 1989 to join the cult, where he was ordered to produce machine guns.
— YASUO HAYASHI, 60, joined the cult in 1988 after reading Shoko Asahara's book and became the cult leader's bodyguard. He had traveled around the world for three years after graduating from college. Hayashi stabbed three bags of sarin on the Hibiya subway line before fleeing. After more than a year at large, he was arrested on the southern resort island of Ishigaki in 1996. Leaving behind the cult teachings, Hayashi called Asahara a wrong mentor, apologized for his crime and said he deserved the infamous nickname "killing machine."
— TORU TOYODA, 50, released sarin on the Hibiya subway line. After earning a master's degree in physics at the prestigious University of Tokyo, Toyoda joined the cult in 1992 and engaged in weapons research and development. Toyoda pleaded guilty in his trial, and said he felt he did not deserve to have lived.
— KENICHI HIROSE: 54, had earned a bachelor's degree in applied physics at Waseda University and studied superconductivity at graduate school. He declined a job offer at a company to join the cult instead. His former supervisor at the university said the physics field globally would have made greater progress if Hirose had used his talent in the right way. He released sarin on the Marunouchi subway line and was convicted for the attack and for illegal weapons production.
EXECUTED THURSDAY FOR OTHER CRIMES:
— KAZUAKI OKASAKI, 57, graduated from an industrial high school and worked at construction sites before donating all his savings to the cult and moving to its commune in 1986. Okasaki fled the group after the 1989 killing of anti-cult lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their baby boy at their Yokohama home, and he surrendered in 1995. He was the first cultist to be sentenced to death in 1998 for the murders of the lawyer's family and other cult crimes.
— SATORU HASHIMOTO, 51, served in an assault unit of the cult using his experience in karate. Hashimoto was one of six cultists who strangled the lawyer's family to death and he also drove a vehicle to spray sarin in Matsumoto in 1994, an attack that killed eight people and preceded the subway attack.
EXECUTED ON JULY 6:
— SHOKO ASAHARA: 63, founded Aum Shinrikyo by mixing religions and social disillusionment to attract followers, many of them top university graduates working in science, medicine or other elite fields. They ran sham computer and health-food businesses and collected donations to amass wealth to buy land and equipment. Sarin was only one of the chemical and biological weapons they were able to manufacture, adding to an arsenal the cult built in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown. The Tokyo subway attack was intended to disrupt an investigation into the group. Asahara was convicted in the subway attack; the 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto; the 1989 killing of the anti-Aum lawyer and his family, and six other murder cases.
— TOMOMASA NAKAGAWA: 55, had been a doctor and helped the cult produce sarin and VX nerve agents. He was convicted in 11 cult crimes in which 25 people were killed. Nakagawa reportedly made an early identification of VX as the method used to assassinate the North Korean leader's half brother in 2017.
—YOSHIHIRO INOUE: 48, was known as the cult's "genius of training" and headed its intelligence unit. He rose quickly in the cult to become Asahara's right-hand man and was the coordinator of the subway attacks.
— TOMOMITSU NIIMI, 54, led a unit of the cult responsible for capturing its members who tried to escape. He also was a getaway driver helping one of the cultists flee after gassing the subway.
— SEIICHI ENDO: 58, graduated from a veterinary school and studied virus and genetic engineering at Kyoto University graduate school. Asahara ordered him to produce sarin, but Endo said in court he did so without knowing its purpose. Endo was convicted in both sarin attacks and an attempted VX attack.
— MASAMI TSUCHIYA: 53, was a chemist who headed the cult's sarin development and production and was convicted for producing sarin, VX and other chemical weapons.
— KIYOHIDE HAYAKAWA: 68, was the cult's "construction minister," responsible for land acquisition and expansion. He was convicted in the murders of the lawyer's family.