Tokyo -- March 2007. Barring developments, the founder and leader of the doomsday cult Aum Supreme Truth, Shoko Asahara, will hang in March for masterminding the 1995 Sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways. His execution is expected to prompt many of his followers to take their own lives. The Supreme Court decision in September to reject a special appeal filed by Matsumoto's defense counsel finalized his death sentence.
The date is unknown because the administration of capital punishment in Japan is secret. Neither inmates nor their families are given advance warning of executions. Only prison officials and a priest are present, and the Justice Ministry announces hangings only after they have taken place.are are shrouded in secrecy, debate on the death penalty is muted.
Potential developments include a delay in officially delivering the Court's decision to Asahara -- the hanging is due to be set for six months from the date he takes delivery -- as well as the slight chance his lawyers could forestall the execution by demanding a retrial or emergency appeal.
The mental health of the blind former leader of Aum, which once numbered some 40,000 members, has been frequently raised by the defense. In August a court-appointed psychiatrist found Asahara could be feigning mental illness and said he is competent to stand trial.
The attack killed 12 and injured thousands. He was arrested in 1995 and convicted in 2004. A succession of earlier appeals delayed the setting of an execution date.
Asahara (Chizuo Matsumoto) has been convicted in several other killings, including a 1994 gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto that killed seven people and the kidnapping and murder of an anti-cult lawyer and his family.
About a dozen other Aum Shinrikyo cult leaders have been sentenced to death, but none have been executed. Most of their cases have appeals pending.