TOKYO -- The Ministry of Justice announced on July 26 that the six remaining former members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult on death row over a series of terror and murder cases were executed the same day.
Their hangings followed the executions on July 6 of seven former cult members including leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, over the same cases.
The latest executions, signed off by Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, came as the last enforcement of criminal punishment on all 190 cult members and related individuals convicted in the terror cases, which included fatal attacks using the deadly sarin nerve gas by the cult on Tokyo's subway system in 1995. The terror cases and murders committed by the cult deeply shocked Japan.
Following the executions, Justice Minister Kamikawa told a press conference that the crimes committed by the ex-cultists were heinous and should never happen again. "I gave the (execution) orders after repeated careful considerations," she said.
It is extremely rare for the government to carry out executions on two occasions in a single month. The total number of executions approved by Kamikawa now stands at 16, including three she ordered during her previous tenure between October 2014 and October 2015. The number is the highest among justice ministers since 1993, when executions were resumed following a suspension of three years and four months due to the stance of justice ministers during the period, among other reasons. The previous high was 13, held by the late former Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama.
Those executed on July 26 are the following, in the order of when their death penalty was finalized in court: Kazuaki Okasaki, 57, who had earlier changed his surname to Miyamae, at the Nagoya Detention Center; Masato Yokoyama, 54, at the same facility; Satoru Hashimoto, 51, at the Tokyo Detention Center; Yasuo Hayashi, 60, who had his surname changed to Koike, at a Sendai Detention Center branch; Toru Toyoda, 50, at the Tokyo Detention Center; and Kenichi Hirose, 54, at the same Tokyo facility.
The six death row inmates, like the seven former cult members executed earlier this month, committed at least one of the following three crimes: The murders of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their baby son; the sarin attack in the central Japan city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture; and the Tokyo subway attack. All of them were convicted and placed on death row from 2005 through 2009.
The 13 convicts had been held in the Tokyo Detention Center until seven of them, excluding Matsumoto, were moved to five other detention facilities nationwide in March this year.
According to the court rulings that were finalized and other sources, Okasaki, who was the first among the 13 to see his death sentence finalized, was involved in the Sakamoto murders. He later quit the cult and confessed to his crime. Yokoyama, on the other hand, sprayed sarin gas in the subway attack but no one on the train car he deployed the deadly chemical died as a result. Hashimoto played a role in the lawyer's case and drove the car used to spray the nerve agent in the Matsumoto case.
Hayashi was involved in creating the car with the capability to spray sarin, and killed eight people in the subway attack using three bags of the poison. Toyoda and Hirose also sprayed sarin on the Hibiya and Marunouchi subway lines, each killing one person.
The latest executions mark the 14th application of the death penalty since the inauguration of the second Abe administration in December 2012, with 34 death row inmates executed in total.
(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department)