Shoko Asahara, creator and leader of Japan-based doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, has been executed in Japan after being on death row for his part in the country’s biggest terrorist attack to date.

Asahara’s execution comes after 20 years of trials, with the Japanese government dismissing the final appeal earlier this year.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult emerged as a ‘spiritual group’ in Japan in the late 1980s, taking cues from Buddhism and Hindu belief systems, and later adopted apocalypse philosophies found in Christian beliefs. The group preyed on intelligent, young students from elite universities who were seeking a bigger meaning, and the group profited from business in electronics and hospitality, as well as forcing members to sign their estates over to the group.

The cult’s main doctrine followed Shoko Asahara as the first “enlightened one” on Earth since Buddha, who preached that the apocalypse would begin with America and Japan entering World War III either in 1006 or between 1999 and 2003.

It’s believed that the cult had tens of thousands of followers at its peak, and now sits at around the 1500 mark across Japan and Russia, where original members appeared under the name ‘Aleph‘ in the mid-1990s.

Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for producing sarin in the 90s – a chemical gas and nerve agent that was designed by Nazi Germany – and committing the country’s biggest terrorist attack to date by releasing the gas in an underground subway that ran through Tokyo‘s political district, killing 12 and permanently injuring a further 50, and temporarily poisoning thousands.

The cult was also linked to the disappearance and subsequent murder of Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family in 1989, while he was working as a lawyer on a class action lawsuit against the emerging cult.

Shoko Asahara was one of 13 cult members waiting for the final result of pending verdicts and is the first to be executed by hanging for the 1995 attack, as well as the murder of the Sakamoto family and production of a chemical weapon.

Source: BBC
Image: Getty Images / Junko Kimura