Fri Feb 27, 2004 01:28 AM ET
TOKYO (Reuters) - A former Japanese cult guru who ordered a 1995
gas attack on Tokyo subway trains that killed 12, sickened thousands
and shattered Japan's myth of public safety was found guilty and
sentenced to death Friday after an eight-year trial.
Prosecutors had demanded that Shoko Asahara, 48, the former leader of Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), be hanged for masterminding the subway attack and separate crimes that killed another 15 people.
The sight of bodies lying across platforms and soldiers in gas masks sealing off Tokyo subway stations stunned the Japanese public, long accustomed to crime-free streets, and raised concern worldwide about the ease of making weapons of mass destruction.
Japan's fears of terror attacks have mounted since the September 2001 attacks in the United States and the controversial dispatch this month of Japanese troops to help rebuild Iraq.
Defense lawyers for Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, are expected to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, starting another lengthy legal process that could take another decade.
Asahara's sect combined supernatural forecasts of a coming apocalypse -- it predicted the United States would attack Japan and turn it into a nuclear wasteland -- with a frightening ability to produce high-tech modes of mass destruction.
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