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Japan’s cult ex-guru sentenced to death

Tokyo, February 27
Former doomsday cult guru Shoko Asahara was convicted and sentenced to death for masterminding the deadly 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway and a string of other crimes that killed 27 people.

Asahara, who founded and led the Aum Shinrikyo cult, was also charged with ordering his followers to produce and stockpile arsenals of conventional and chemical weapons.

Asahara stood in silence as the verdict and sentence were read. It was not immediately clear if he would appeal.

The ruling was the climax of a nearly eight-year-long trial. His attorneys had argued that Asahara - whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto — had lost control over his flock by the time of the March 20, 1995, subway attack with sarin gas.

But former followers testified in court that Asahara planned and ordered the subway attack, which killed 12 persons and sickened thousands, and other crimes.

Asahara was also accused of masterminding a sarin gas attack in June 1994 in the central Japan city of Matsumoto, the murder of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, and the killings of wayward followers and people helping members leave the cult.

Asahara is the 12th person sentenced to death for the subway attack. — AP

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