TOKYO, Feb. 21 (Kyodo) — A man known as the ”doctor” in Japan’s AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult says religious fanaticism guided by former guru Shoko Asahara led its followers to carry out attacks such as the shocking 1995 sarin gassing of the Tokyo subway.
In a note written ahead of the Feb. 27 ruling in Asahara’s long trial, Tomomasa Nakagawa, who was convicted of helping prepare the sarin gas, apologized to the cult’s victims.
”Religion always carries with it some sort of danger,” he wrote. ”I believe the series of incidents we caused are the result of these dangers coming out in the extreme.”
Nakagawa did not cite any specific crimes in the note, described to Kyodo News by his lawyer.
Formerly a close aide to the guru, the 41-year-old trained physician is appealing his death sentence. He quit the cult following his arrest in May 1995, and later gave up his medical license.
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Calling Asahara’s religious beliefs ”some sort of madness,” Nakagawa indicated he and other senior cultists had a big role in contributing to them.
Asahara’s teachings were based on tenets borrowed from mainstream faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Yoga and meditation were important for followers, but the key belief centered on absolute reverence for Asahara, who claimed supernatural and prophetic powers. He taught that suffering could relieve bad karma.
Nakagawa also said that ever since Asahara began attracting followers, the guru, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, sought to expand his flock and also considered arming it.
The sect had its origins as a yoga circle founded in 1984. It renamed itself AUM Shinrikyo (AUM Supreme Truth) in 1987, and was certified as a religious group two years later by the Tokyo metropolitan government.
The status was revoked following Asahara’s arrest in May 1995, two months after the Tokyo subway gassing that left 12 dead and thousands injured.
Nakagawa became a doctor after graduating from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. He became a live-in member of the cult in September 1989, about two months before the abduction and murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family. Sakamoto helped people with complaints about the sect.
Last October, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Nakagawa to death for conspiring with Asahara, citing his role in making the sarin gas on the instructions of the leader.
Nakagawa was indicted in 11 criminal cases, second only in AUM crimes to Asahara’s 13. The sect’s 48-year-old founder faces charges including murder for crimes by his followers in which more than 20 people were killed.
AUM has renamed itself Aleph in 2000.