Japan has executed the leader and six members of the doomsday cult that unleashed a sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed the news about Shoko Asahara, leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.  Amnesty International (.pdf link) says that executions in Japan are carried out in secret, with no advance warning given to the prisoner, their family or legal representatives.  Although Asahara and his confederates have had 23 years to see this coming, like all condemned prisoners in Japan they learned they were to be killed only hours before the sentence was carried out.  All executions in Japan are carried out by hanging.

Aum Shinrikyo preached a hodge-podge of Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism.  Members - some of whom were doctors or trained scientists - believed that the end of the world was near, and non-believers would perish.

Asahara ordered and oversaw the development of deadly chemical and biological weapons weapons such as sarin, VX, botulinum, and phosgene.  Aum attempted several attacks on the Japanese public and individuals it thought were its enemies, including the Matsumoto Sarin Gas attack which killed eight people in 1994.  Despite getting a tip that the cult was responsible, authorities and some newspapers blamed a man who had some stolen pesticides in his house - even though pesticides cannot be turned into sarin.  He was eventually cleared of involvement.

But this blunder gave Aum Shinrikyo breathing room to plan a more devastating attack on the Tokyo Subway system, in the enclosed cars and tubes that would allow the gas to waft about in sufficient concentrations to do terrible damage.  Members placed punctured bags filled with liquid nerve agent on train lines going through Tokyo's political district.  It didn't take long for people to be overcome with breathing difficulties, temporary blindness, and neural damage that have left some of the worst cases paralyzed and bed ridden to this day.