After the largest criminal investigation in Japanese history, police are preparing to request arrest warrants for Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Sublime Truth cult, and leaders of the cult’s chemical research and production team, the Yomiuri newspaper said.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Police spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the report, which cited police sources.
Police have not yet publicly accused Asahara or cult followers with releasing the nerve gas sarin in the Tokyo subways March 20. Twelve people died in the attack and 5,500 others were left with symptoms such as partial blindness, bleeding and seizures.
The Yomiuri said police now believe there is sufficient evidence for Asahara and the scientists to be charged with murder. Specially made bags used to hold the nerve gas in the attack are apparently identical to those manufactured by the cult.
More than 150 other cult members have already been arrested, although all on relatively minor charges. Cult leaders deny any involvement in the sarin attack.
This week, another national newspaper, the Sankei Shimbun, reported that police have found the 40-year-old Asahara hiding at a cult facility outside Tokyo and are keeping him under around-the-clock surveillance.
Police also refused to comment on that report.