Hi, this is D, I’m back. Yeah, it is me again.
First of all, I’m really grateful that GJH gave me an audience to vent my writing desire and to actually be ‘heard’ by real human beings like all of you, lol. You guys don’t know how much your comments mean to GJH and I because though he can see and know that there are people reading his blog, the comments are what make us actually feel that there are really people reading. And that makes writing so much more meaningful.
I’ve decided to start another series of writing (still retaining my bikkurishita-esque heading, heh heh) to share with you guys news that pique my interest in Japan! Of course, it will all be based on my own understanding, interpretation, as well as perspective. I strive and hope to be as accurate as possible. =x
And I’ve decided to start off with writing about this news that plagued most of the TV channels in Japan 2 days ago for the whole Friday morning. When I say plague TV channels for the whole morning, I’m really not kidding. They just looped footages of the on-site scene camped at the entrance of the prison that held the cult leader and updates by the on-site reporter on TV the whole morning, non-stop.
Basically, what happened on Friday, was that the Aum Cult founder, Asahara, as well as 6 of the cult’s senior members were finally executed for masterminding and carrying out a string of crimes that led to the death of 26 people.
What makes their execution so notable (and why I used ‘finally’), is that the crimes were committed decades back in 1995.
Now, that’s a longgg time for an execution to actually happen, don’t you think? 23 years, to be exact.
So you may be wondering. What’s the big deal about their execution? What did they do? And why so long for the execution to take place? What’s there to report the whole morning?
Let me start with…
What exactly is this Aum Cult thing?
Aum Cult is considered a doomsday cult. Asahara actually ‘prophesied’ US launching an attack on Japan that will turn Japan into a nuclear wasteland, which is World War 3. He attracted thousands of followers with this (God knows how that even happened, seriously, especially when there wasn’t even social media back then!) in the 1980s and many were even educated and high income earners. The cult gradually grew violent in a way, as they started importing weapons and chemicals to make sarin and VX gas, another type of poison — the poison that was used to assassinate Kim Jung Nam.
It is interesting to note that though it was based on buddhism, Asahara claimed that he was the ‘lamb of god’ destined to ‘take on the sins of this world’ and his prophesy of an armageddon was lifted off the bible’s book of Revelations 16:16. Eclective, huh?
So by now, you should know that this Aum Cult is, well, a cult, and a dangerous one that you can simply coin as terrorists. I mean, they even killed one of their member who tried to leave them, can you imagine?
Okay, so what did they do?
Their most notable crime would be a subway attack during peak hour back in 1995, where they released sarin gas in the commuter packed train on 3 Tokyo metro lines, killing more than a dozen and injuring thousands.
*I’m not sure if you have read about this sarin gas attack before, but I remember studying about it during Social Studies back in secondary school days.
There was a smaller scale sarin attack months before the major one in 1995 and a string of other crimes all perpetuated by the same cult. Basically, they are terrorists. They even murdered the lawyer (and the whole family) who was working on a case against them, can you imagine that? They actually sneaked into the lawyer’s home and injected them (lawyer, wife and 1 year old child) with potassium chloride and strangled them.
By now, you get the drift.
So what took them so long?
Well, my guess is, law. The trial for Asahara, which ended with death penalty, was confirmed in 2006 but the execution dragged on for a further 12 years due to the trials for his co-conspirators, which only concluded earlier this year in 2018. So I guess unless all who were involved were trialled and done with, they can’t execute the others.
Interestingly, though Asahara and 6 members have been executed, there’s another 6 members who are still pending execution. A total of 12 members plus Asahara were all sentenced to death penalty for the string of crimes they had committed.
Another reason that I personally think is possible, is that they were probably concerned about the repercussions of executing the death penalty, knowing that Aum Cult, being a big cult, had followers still. Who knows what these crazed fanatics would do if their leader and senior members were executed? The government probably had to buy some time (years) to survey, observe, spy, or even break up the group before they did anything that may endanger the lives of other citizens.
I guess partly why it dragged on was due to some human rights people fighting against execution. Why am I not surprised?
So why the massive news coverage and reporters camping at the prison entrance?
Remember I mentioned that the footages were just on-site scenes of the prison entrance and reporters? Well, that’s as far as they can get because it is not like Japanese government was going to release footages of the hanging.
Why it was so widely covered is probably because no one knew about the execution until the very same day, possibly just hours before the execution of the dealth penalty. Yes, no one knew, not even the death roll inmates themselves. Because that’s how it is in Japan. Prisoners awaiting death penalty just live in the prison, not knowing when the day will come. And it happens in a random order, on a random day. So imagine the shock of reporters, news agencies, as well as citizens and people who were affected by the sarin gas attacks, when they know that justice was finally served! Of course there was massive coverage.
So I guess they were all camping outside the prison, knowing that the execution could be happening anytime and that was the nearest they could get to an on-site coverage.
Additionally, an ex spokesperson for Aum Cult also gave a press release session. Apparently, he was a member of Aleph, a branch of Aum Cult, and he expressed his regrets for what happened. And yes, Aum Cult has since split into two sub-groups, Aleph and Hikari no Wa, so technically Aum Cult no longer exists. Aleph is still under the government’s surveillance (Hikari no Wa’s surveillance was lifted in 2017).
So, yes, it was probably the nature of dealth penalty execution system that caused such surprise and uproar.
And by the way, did I forget to mention that Asahara actually sort of started his string of terror activities after his attempt to be elected into the government failed? He actually joined the Japanese Diet election and failed miserably (1,500 out of 500,000 votes). Now, talk about vengeance!
Was this an interesting news to you?
I had a lot of fun reading about it to write this post, so I hope you are entertained by it.