In 2016, police in Russian Federation conducted a number of raids on suspected cult members in Moscow and St Petersburg. It is unclear whether they were also executed this week. The death toll makes it the worst terror attack in Japanese history, according to The Guardian. The two groups have around 150 and 1,500 followers respectively, according to Japanese media. It continues to exist, but in a much diminished form.
Japan's justice minister, who approved the hangings Tuesday, said she doesn't take executions lightly but felt they were justified in this case because of the unprecedentedly seriousness of the crimes. Some said Japan has now lost a chance to hear an account of the crimes from Matsumoto, who had stopped making meaningful speeches from the middle of his first trial, which started in April 1996.
She said: "The fear, pain, and sorrow of the victims, survivors and their families - because of the heinous cult crimes - must have been so severe, and that is beyond my imagination".
Police leave an Aum Shinrikyo compound in the small village of Kamikuishiki at the foot of Mount Fuji on March 28, 1995.
Matsumoto insisted he did not instruct his followers to carry out the attacks.
Atsushi Sakahara, who was injured in the attack, welcomed the executions. Cult members also staged several failed attempts to release hydrogen cyanide on subway trains following the 1995 attack.
The executions of the 63-year-old Asahara and the six cult members were announced by the Justice Ministry after they had been hanged, as is the practice in Japan.
This photo from 1995 shows subway passengers affected by sarin nerve gas being carried into a hospital.
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The Aum Shinrikyo was founded by Asahara, who was virtually blind, in 1987 and mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings. They amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons to carry out his vision of overthrowing the government to save the world from a doomsday he said was coming.
Cult guru Shoko Asahara, left, of Aum Shinrikyo walks with Yoshihiro Inoue, then a close aid, in Tokyo.
He declined to comment on media reports that some of Asahara's followers were also hanged.
Kimiaki Nishida, a professor of social psychology at Rissho University in Tokyo, told the Post that "Asahara was talented at brainwashing".
In all, 13 cult members were sentenced to death during more than 20 years of trials, which came to an end in January 2018.
The seven executions in one day were the most since Japan began releasing information on executions in 1998.
Shoji said the seven deserved to be punished for the "despicable" attacks but "the death penalty is never the answer".
The move drew sharp criticism from some lawmakers as well as Amnesty International, which called capital punishment "the ultimate denial of human rights".