Japan cult leader charged in murder of sect member

TOKYO — The alleged master- mind of the subway nerve gas attack faced new charges yesterday of having ordered the strangling of a member of his doomsday cult 1 1/2 years ago.

Shoko Asahara, the 40-year-old guru of the Sublime Truth cult, has been in police custody since May 16, charged with murder in the March 20 subway attack that left 12 people dead and 5,500 injured.

Yesterday, police “rearrested” him, saying that they feel they have enough evidence to bring charges in the strangling case.

Asahara is suspected of ordering the strangling of Kotaro Ochida, 29, a pharmacist at a cult hospital. Police said he was killed by Hideaki Yasuda, a 27-year-old former sect member, in January 1994.

Japanese media said Yasuda, who had been arrested earlier, told police that Asahara and 10 other senior cult members witnessed the killing at the cult’s commune at Kamikuishiki, near Mount Fuji.

At the time, Yasuda and Ochida were being detained at the commune after unsuccessfully trying to help a female cult member flee, Kyodo News Service reported.

Kyodo and other media said that investigators suspect that other cult members may have met similar fates because many remain missing. Police also arrested three more cult members yesterday, on suspicion of the abduction and battery of another cult member at the commune in February.

The cult also is alleged to have planned attacks on Japanese cities with sarin and other nerve gases. Cult members have been implicated in letter bomb attacks and other kidnapping and suspected murder cases, as well as the near- fatal shooting of Japan’s top police official.

Most of the cult’s leaders are in jail.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, via the Boston Globe, USA
June 15, 1995

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 15, 1995.
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