Here is a chronology of major events since the cult was founded.
February 1984: Shoko Asahara, a partially-blind acupuncturist with a conviction for selling quack medicine founds a small religious sect in Tokyo .
July 1987: Asahara, who claims to have found enlightenment in the Himalayas the previous year, renames the cult Aum Shinrikyo (Aum Supreme) Truth with headquarters at Fujinomiya in central Japan and offices in Tokyo .
November 1989: An anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and infant son disappear from their apartment in Yokohama west of Tokyo .
February 1990: Asahara and followers unsuccessfully run for office in parliamentary elections.
June 1994: The lethal Nazi-invented Sarin gas is released in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto at night, killing seven people.
March 20 1995: Cult members release Sarin gas on the Tokyo subway during the morning rush hour, killing 12 people and injuring thousands of others.
April 1995: The cult’s “science and technology minister” Hideo Murai dies after being stabbed in the stomach by a gangster before television cameras in front of its Tokyo offices.
May 1995: Police arrest Asahara in a secret room at the cult’s sprawling commune in Kamikuishiki village at the foot of Mount Fuji .
April 1996: Asahara goes on trial on 17 criminal charges, later reduced to 13.
January 1997: The government’s Public Security Commission decides not to outlaw the sect, saying there is insufficient reason to believe it is still a threat with only about
October 1998: Aum founding member Kazuaki Okazaki is sentenced to death for four murders including the anti-sect lawyer and his family.
September 1999: Senior cult member Masato Yokoyama is sentenced to hang for spreading Sarin in Tokyo ‘s subway, the first death penalty handed out for the attack.
December 1999: Aum admits for the first time its involvement in the Tokyo subway attack, and apologizes to the victims.
Parliament passes legislation allowing police to conduct raids and demand information and financial data from the sect without the need for a warrant.
January 2000: The sect changes its name to “Aleph” as part of a facelift. It promises to reform the group by deposing Asahara and appointing former translator Tatsuko Muraoka as new cult representative.
January 2000: The Public Security Commission approves a crackdown on the cult amid fears it could strike again.
June 2000: Aum member Yasuo Hayashi is sentenced to death for unleashing Sarin in the Tokyo subway attack.
July 2000: The last two disciples to face sentencing for releasing the gas, Toru Toyoda and Kenichi Hirose, are sentenced to death.
Nov 2000: The former head of Aum’s Russian branch, Toshiyasu Ouchi, is sentenced to eight years in prison for murdering a fellow cultist and mutilating the corpse of another.
May 2001: Aum member Nobore Nakamura is sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes including taking part in the 1994 Matsumoto sarin attack.
July 2001: A court orders Asahara to pay a total of 3.8 million dollars to bereaved families of victims killed in the Matsumoto attack.
January 2002: A Russian court hands jail sentences to five Russian Aum followers who had been accused of preparing attacks on Japanese cities.
June 2002: Aum member Tomomitsu Niimi is sentenced to death for his role as a key conspirator in the Tokyo and Matsumoto attacks and other murders.
October 2002: Aum’s former top bio-chemist Seiichi Endo is sentenced to death for murder and other charges related to the gas attacks.
October 2002: Asahara’s wife is released from jail after serving a six-year term for murder.
April 2003: Prosecutors demand the death sentence for Asahara
October 2003: Tomomasa Nakagawa, former physician and right-hand man to Asahara, is sentenced to death for multiple murder in the Tokyo subway attack and 10 other crimes.
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Taking a break?
Asahara’s lawyers wrap up their defence case, arguing the guru was out of touch and his followers who were acting on their own initiative.
January 2004: Tokyo District Court sentences to death Masami Tsuchiya, a former senior Aum chemist, for his role in producing sarin.
February 27 2004 : Asahara sentenced to death by Tokyo District Court after being found guilty of 13 crimes including ordering the Tokyo subway attack on the Tokyo subway.