The God of Poison

June 29, 2000 - Former cult leader Yasuo Hayashi, 42, was sentenced to death for his participation in the Tokyo subway gas attacks. Dubbed the "murder machine" by Japanese media Hayashi is believed to have released the largest amount of poisonous sarin gas in the attack. Prosecutors charged that Hayashi was directly responsible for the deaths of eight people by carrying three plastic bags of the deadly gas onto a packed commuter train.

After the subway attack, Hayashi went on the run, living in hideouts across the country for about a year and a half before being arrested in one of the southern Okinawa islands. While a fugitive, he took part in a failing gas attack at a Tokyo train station.

April 13, 2000 - Media reports revealed that the Aum Shinri Kyo may have known top government secrets as members were involved in developing key software for the navy. The report said a member of the doomsday cult took part in developing software to keep track of all of the forces of the Maritime Self Defence Forces. The reports deal yet another blow to the government's computer security management following revelations in February that Aum took part in installing a computer system at the defence ministry. While that system was not connected to the ministry's classified information and its implementation was postponed due to the finding, the navy's software had been in operation since last year, media reports said. Aum, whose computer business has been a major source of its income, was also involved in developing software used by a number of government ministries and major companies.

March 9, 2000 -The Tokyo District Court ordered seven former senior members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult to pay compensation to 41 plaintiffs, including some injured in the 1995 Tokyo subway trains gas attack. The plaintiffs had sought a total of 668 million yen from 15 members of the cult. Six of the 15 defendants have already been ordered by the court to pay compensation and two others have agreed to accept the plaintiffs' demand. This new ruling order the seven remaining members to pay up. The case between the plaintiffs and AUM Shinrikyo ended in December 1997 and the cult paid about 244 million yen in compensation for victims of the Tokyo subway gassing during the cult's bankruptcy proceedings.

Last December, AUM first admitted its culpability in the gas attack and other crimes, apologizing to victims and announcing its intention to compensate them. Then in January, the cult announced it renamed itself Aleph.

December, 1999 - Prompted by fears the cult was making a comeback, Japan's parliament passed new laws in December enabling authorities to put the cult under surveillance for three years, by inspecting its sites and obliging the group to submit details of its members and assets to authorities. The laws do not specify Aum by name but target the activities of any group that has engaged in "indiscriminate mass murder" in the past 10 years.

March 15, 1999 - As the fourth anniversary of the deadly Tokoy subway gas attack approaches, there are signs the Aum Shinri Kyo cult is coming back to life. The group has been buying up houses and other real estate across Japan to set up new offices and meeting centers in what authorities describe as an ominous effort to re-establish itself. Police say members are once again preparing for the Armageddon, which according to Shoko Asahara, will be coming this year.

Aum was stripped of its legal status and tax privileges as a religious organization, but the government concluded it was no longer a threat and stopped short of using an anti-subversion law to ban it. So members can still assemble, spread their ideas and raise money. Using profits from sales of computers and computer parts, for instance, the cult last year bought at least $1.65 million in real estate. Authorities see the real estate deals as just one element in a broader and more disconcerting effort by Aum to expand in a year that is of special significance to Asahara's followers.

According to the guru's teachings, Judgment Day will come on either Sept. 2 or 3 and only cult members will survive. Possibly in preparation, investigators say, the cult has set up several offices or meeting places around the Tokyo Detention Center, where Asahara is being held while on trial. According to a recent report compiled by the government's Public Security Investigation Agency, Aum followers have been instructed to worship the jail as a "holy place."

December 26, 1998 - Japan's Public Security Investigation Agency released a report stating that the Aum Shinri Kyo religious cult is regrouping and recruiting new members. According to the agency's report, "Aum is actively attempting to bring back former members and recruiting new members on a nationwide basis, while initiating advertising campaigns and acquiring necessary capital."

December 23, 1998 - Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons oversaw the destruction by Japanese authorities of the factory used by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult to make the nerve gas used in the 1995 attack on Tokyo's subway system.

October 23, 1998 - The Tokyo District Court sentenced former Aum leader Kazuaki Okazaki, 38, to death for murdering four people in two separate attacks -- the November 4, 1989 strangling of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, an anti-cult lawyer, his wife and their infant son, and the murder a cult member who had tried to quit the religious group in February 1989.

October 8, 1998 - According to Japanese authorities the Aum Shinrikyo is making a comeback. The cult, known for it's deadly forays into chemical warfare, is regrouping, recruiting new members at home and abroad, and raising vast sums of money.

Though the Tokyo district court deprived the Aum of its legal religious status in 1995 and liquidated its assets after declaring it insolvent the following year, the Japanese government decided that the Justice Ministry had not proved that the group posed an "immediate or obvious threat" to Japanese society. It rejected a request from security officials to outlaw the sect under a 1952 law against subversive activities. As a result, despite security experts' warnings, the Aum has used the decision to rebound back into circulation.

According to reports from Japanese security officials and independent experts, the group now has about 5,000 followers, including 500 "monks." It operates 28 installations at 18 branches throughout the country. Despite being banned in Russia, the group is still active there, as well as in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It maintains encrypted Web sites and chat rooms in Japanese, English and Russian and controls a network of electronic, computer and other stores that generated about $30 million in revenues in 1997.

Still, the group's resurgence deeply troubles security officials, who say they monitor known followers and businesses 24 hours a day and continue searching for three of its leaders accused of involvement in earlier plots and deadly assaults. Signs of the group's resurgence abound. In May, more than 500 believers and others curious about the sect gathered at a resort near Mount Fuji to hear sermons and receive training in yoga, meditation and other activities. Security officials and private experts estimate that the group raised about 50 million yen, or about $350,000, from that meeting alone.

While the police say there is no evidence that the cult has resumed its efforts to make or buy weapons of mass destruction, the cult still worries them. Security officials expressed particular concern about the group's continued allure for young scientists, engineers and other well-educated people who might be able to reassemble an arms arsenal.

September 10, 1998 - The Tokyo High Court shaved six months off a seven-year jail term for the Aum Shinri Kyo cult member Eriko Iida, 37, convicted of helping abduct a man who later died. The court lowered the sentence after the Iida agreed to make compensation payments to another kidnapping victim of the doomsday cult.

June 12, 1998 - Takashi Tomita, a former member of the AUM Shirinkyo cult was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the deaths of seven people in a 1994 nerve gas attack in central Japan. Tomita, 40, admitted driving a vehicle equipped with a nerve-gas spraying device to a dormitory for court officials in Matsumoto. But he insisted he did not know the gas was lethal. The court, however, convicted him of conspiracy to commit murder.

May 27, 1998 - Japanese police said they unearthed eight cylinders containing 160 Kg. of hydrogen fluoride hidden on a mountain by members of the Aum Shinrikyo Investigators believed members of the sect buried the chemical in an attempt to conceal evidence the group produced sarin.

May 26, 1998 - Doomsday cult leader Ikuo Hayashi, 51, was spared the death penalty after being found guilty of murder in the nerve gas attack that killed 12 people on Tokyo's subways. In an unusually lenient sentence, Hayashi, a heart surgeon, was sentenced to life in prison, which means he will be able to apply for parole in about 20 years. In handing down the verdict Judge Megumi Yamamuro said Hayashi was criminally responsible for his actions but had shown he was sorry.

Prosecutors said Hayashi used electric shock to brainwash cult members and carried out plastic surgery on members' faces and fingertips to aid their escape from police. During his trail, a witness testified that in April 1990 the cult sent three trucks containing botulism microbes to spray clouds of mists on four sites, including American Navy operations in the city of Yokohama and the U.S. Navy base at Yokosuka.

May 15, 1998 - Tomoko Matsumoto, 39, the wife of Shoko Asahara, was jailed for seven years for participating with her husband in the plotting of the murder a fellow cult member.

April 30, 1998 - The AUM held a large meeting outside Tokyo raising fears that the group could be making a comeback. Japanese newspapers reported the meeting was mainly a fund raising event, saying the 200 members present paid up to $1,520 each to attend.

February 27, 1998 - The Tokyo District Court sentenced Aum Shinrikyo follower Makoto Goto to 10 years in prison for his involvement in the 1994 lynching of an errant cultist and the 1994 abduction of an innkeeper in Miyazaki Prefecture. Goto, 37, was found guilty of conspiring in the January 1994 slaying of Kotaro Ochida, 29, at the cult's compound in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture. According to the court, Goto and other cultists held Ochida down as the victim was strangled by Hideaki Yasuda.

In a related trial, prosecutors demanded a 10-year prison term for Tomoko Matsumoto -- Shoko's wife -- for conspiring in the 1994 lynching of Kotaro Ochida. Matsumoto pleaded innocent claiming she was not involved even though she was present when he was killed. According to prosecutors, she was the only person who could have challenged the guru's orders. Throughout her trial, which began in December 1995, Matsumoto has stressed that, although she is married Asahara', she had no power over him. She said she was always worried about her husband's extramarital affair with another senior cultist. Queen of the fair-weathered-wife club, Tomoko told the court that she is considering divorcing the portly Shoko.

As for Shoko, his trial session was postponed because the he has been suffering a cold and high fever and has not been able to eat anything.

December 25, 1997 - A court-appointed trustee for the bankrupt Supreme Truth cult agreed to pay survivors and the families of those killed in the Tokyo subway gas attack a total of up to 1.12 billion yen ($8.62 million) in damages. Since the cult is under heaps of debt and there are so many other claims on its assets, the victims might end up with only 20 percent of what they won, a court official said. The settlement, mediated by the Tokyo District Court, wrapped up suits by 42 survivors and the families of the 12 people killed in the March 1995 attack in the Tokyo subways.

December 3, 1997 - Japanese prosecutors said on they would take the extremely rare step of speeding up the snail-paced murder trials of the doomsday cult guru Shoko Asahara. "The prolongation of Asahara's trials would sharply amplify public distrust in Japan's criminal justice," deputy chief prosecutor Kunihiro Matsuo told a news conference. "This is also an extremely serious issue in terms of maintaining order.

The prosecutors office said it would drastically reduce the number of people listed in the indictments as "injured" in the two separate gas attacks so that they could shorten court proceedings. The number of victims on whom prosecutors would need to present evidence and examine as witnesses would be slashed to only 18 from 3,938, thus cutting the length of the trial by up to eight years.

October 8, 1997 - The United States designated the Aum Shinrikyo and 29 other foreign groups as terrorist organizations.

September 8, 1997 - Lawyers for the portly cult guru grilled Kiyohide Hayakawa in the Tokyo Municipal Court about the events leading to the November 1989 murders of the anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family. According to Shoko's legal team the blind guru did not order his disciples to do the killings but that the cultists misinterpreted his words and acted on their own.

September 7, 1997 - Three monuments for the murdered lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife, and their one-year-old baby, were unveiled at the respective sites where their remains were found. Each body was found buried in a separate mountain locations in central Japan -- Nadachi in the Niigata Prefecture, Uozu in Toyama Prefecture and Omachi in Nagano Prefecture. The building of the monuments was financed by Japanese lawyers groups and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

September 5, 1997 - Testifying at the 48th hearing of Shoko's trial at the Tokyo District Court, Kiyohide Hayakawa, the former "construction minister" and de facto No. 2 man of the cult, said: "There was no person other than Asahara who could order 'poa,' for he was thought of as the Buddha." The 'poas' (murder in Sanskrit) in question were the killings of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, as well as former cult member Shuji Taguchi.

August 26, 1997 - The Japanese Public Security Investigation Agency announced that the AUM has regained its organizational strength and expanded its activities since it was spared disbandment in January under the Antisubversive Activities Law. The group has established 10 new "departments" and reopened five regional chapters and one training center. Presently they have 26 facilities in Japan with about 500 live-in followers and some 5,000 others living on their own. Authorities suspects the cult has threatened former followers to rejoin, telling them they would go to hell or have to cut their fingers off if they don't.

July 7, 1997 - Former cultist Masahiro Tominaga testified at the Tokyo District Court that in June, 1994 Yoshinobu Aoyama -- a lawyer for the AUM --- planned to ship 21 tons of sarin nerve gas to the U.S. in ice and/or concrete sculptures. The attack, of course, was never carried out.

Tominaga, 28, also said the Tokyo subway attack was part of a holy war aimed at overthrowing Japan's government and installing Shoko Asahara as "king of Japan."

June 25, 1997 - Dubbed the "murder machine" of the AUM by Japanes media, Yasuo Hayashi pleaded guilty to murder charges in the Tokyo subway gassing. The last of five cult members accused in the attack to be arrested, Yasuo alone is believed to be responsible for eight of the 12 deaths and for about half the injuries.

Hayashi, 39, admitted in his first day at the Tokyo District Court that he stabbed three plastic bags containing sarin nerve gas with a sharpened tip of an umbrella inside a subway car. He also pleaded guilty to murder charges stemming from the Matsumoto nerve gas attack in June 1994, as well as a failed attempt to release cyanide gas in a Tokyo railway station in May 1996.

May 22, 1997 In what is now routine, Shoko Asahara was ordered not to interrupt court proceedings after he stood up during his trial and shouted, "I'm Shoko Asahara." The portly death cult guru also kept muttering while witnesses were testifying on allegations that he ordered the 1989 killings of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, an anti-cult lawyer, and his family.

April 24, 1997 In a barely intelligible statement Shoko Asahara said that he is not guilty of ordering the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system or any other crime he's been charged with. "I issued an order to stop (the attack) but was defeated (by my disciples)," Asahara told the Tokyo District Court. The statement was Asahara's first for the court record since his trial began a year ago. He also said that he "never ordered" the death of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a Yokohama lawyer representing families who wanted to help their relatives leave the cult.

During the two-hour morning session Shoko addressed -- in Japanese and English -- nine of the 17 criminal counts against him. As usual, he started mumbling as soon as he took the defendant's seat and continued to mutter to himself while a prosecutor took 15 minutes to read out a summary of the indictments. On the witness stand Shoko switched from Japanese to English as he continued his "stream of conscience" defense. Court stenographers appeared at a loss when Asahara spoke in English. But even in Japanese, it was hard to discern his words.

By the end of his statement, Asahara claimed he has already been found not guilty in 16 of the 17 charges. He claimed that an order for his release had already been handed down because he has been detained for more than one year since his arrest. After listening to the statement, one of his lawyers asked him whether he recognizes that his trial is still continuing. Asahara said in English: "They say this is a court, but I think this is like a play."

April 23, 1997 - Yoshihiro Inoue, the cult's former intelligence chief, testified that the cult paid about $79,000 to Oleg Lobov, a former Russian security chief, for the blueprints of how to build a nerve gas plant. Police said they have evidence that cult experts made repeated trips to Russia, Australia and other countries to study the feasibility of obtaining a wide range of weapons and dangerous materials, including tanks and uranium.

April 16, 1997 - Japanese national Keiji Tanimura, a member of a Russian branch of the Aum Shinri Kyo, was arrested in Moscow and charged with distributing pornography and encroaching on citizens' rights.

In what seems to be an official crackdown on the cult, the arrest follows the February arrest of Ando Re, the co-leader of the cult's Russian branch. In March a Moscow judge closed down the Russian branches of the sect -- six in Moscow and seven in other cities -- and ordered a stop to radio and TV broadcasts of its programs. The judge also demanded the sect's Russian representatives to pay $4 million in punitive damages to a group of parents who sued it in June 1994.

April 10, 1997 - Judge Fumihiro Abe of the Tokyo District Court told Shoko Asahara to be prepared to comment on all charges against him and enter a plea at the April 24 session of his trial. Asahara responded to the judge's request by mumbling unintelligibly.

April 6, 1997 - In apparent response to the defense lawyers' one-day court boycott, the Tokyo District Court said it will cancel one of April's four scheduled court appearances for doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara.

March 29, 1997 - Kazuo Konya, a former member of the Aum, told the Tokyo Municipal Court that in an 1988 initiation ritual he paid $8,100 to drink their guru's blood. Other former cult members have also testified they paid for blood, strands of Asahara's hair and his bath water. Some said they paid $2,400 for an intravenous injection of an unknown substance. Ironically, all throughout, Asahara preached to his followers that they should renounce materialism.

March 27, 1997 - The 12 defense lawyers for Shoko Asahara -- after skipping a March 14 court session to protest what they regard as too many court appearances too close together -- ended their one-day boycott and returned to work.

In court, Atsushi Toda, a Tokyo city official whose office approves religious corporations, testified on his run-ins with the cult. As usual, Asahara murmured to himself and was chided by his lawyers as he got louder, disturbing the witness.

March 20, 1997 - The two-year anniversary of the Tokyo subway Sarin gas attack that left 12 dead was commemorated at the Kasumigaseki Station by a group of survivors and relatives of the victims by handing out 500 copies of a 44-page compilation of their memories of how the tragedy unfolded.

"Those around us think it's history," said 50-year-old Shizue Takahashi, whose husband, Kazumasa, 51, an employee of the Teito Rapid Transit Authority, was killed in the attack while working at Kasumigaseki Station. "We just want people to know that many of us are still tormented, and that it could have happened to anyone." According to recent data compiled by Tokyo's St. Luke International Hospital, about 20 percent of the survivors who were treated there still show symptoms of disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Because medical services were not capable at the time of diagnosing such psychological damage, members of the victims' group claim that many of the sufferers have not been able to receive adequate medical attention.

March 19, 1997 - Satoru Hirata, 31, an ex-member of the Aum Shinri Kyo, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attacking three perceived enemies of the cult with VX nerve gas resulting in one death, and helping in the February, 1995, kidnapping and murder of the notary clerk Kiyoshi Kariya.

Hirata and other cult members were accused of abducting Kariya -- who was reportedly trying to convince his sister not to give the cult all her assets -- and imprisoning him at their commune near Mount Fuji, where he died after being drugged.

March 14, 1997 - As warned, lawyers defending Shoko Asahara boycotted his trial saying they had not enough time to prepare their case. The demanded that their four court sessions per month be cut to three for Shoko to get a fair trial. Backing their position, they declared they were prepared to defend him for 10 years if necessary.

March 6, 1997 - The lawyers defending Shoko Asahara said they wanted to quit the case because they are not being given enough time to prepare for trial sessions. The trial has been proceeding at a pace of two all-day sessions every two weeks. However, most criminal trials in Japan tend to be even slower.

"This is our way of bitterly criticizing the basic attitude of the court toward this case, and the way it is being conducted," the frustrated lead defense attorney Osamu Watanabe told reporters. The 12 lawyers did not say why they need more time, but acknowledged that part of the problem was Asahara himself, who refuses to meet with them and keeps getting himself thrown out of court. According to Watanabe, the lawyers plan to boycott the Tokyo District Court starting in April unless Judge Abe slows down the pace.

February 14, 1997 - For the second day in a row another former high ranking member of the cult testified that Shoko Asahara ordered his lieutenants to murder lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family. Also for the second day in a row, the miffed guru was ejected from the courtroom.

Corroborating Kazuaki Okazaki's testimony, Kiyohide Hayakawa, 47, another former close aide to Asahara, testified that the blind guru ordered the murder of the Sakamotos because the attorney would "get in the way" of future cult activities. Sakamoto had been representing families of cult members who wanted to retrieve their loved ones and their money from the cult. Like Okazaki, Hayakawa admitted in his own Tokyo District Court trial that he was one of six cultists who took part in the November 4, 1989, death squad.

In what's become trademark behavior for the portly guru, Asahara mumbled incoherently and continually interrupted the testimony. At one point he turned to the gallery and said, "You are all hypnotized." He also told the court that as long as he was kept from entering a plea, the trial would be invalid. "Therefore, let me leave." 40 minutes after the session began the presiding judge did just that. As he was being escorted out of the courtroom he shouted, "I am being raped and abused, everyone can hear that."

February 14, 1997 - Following the large-scale investigation of the cult, police have been trying to locate a total of 54 followers who have been reported missing by their relatives. According to the National Police Agency, 18 members were confirmed to have died at a medical facility affiliated with the cult. Four others died at other hospitals. Eight followers were killed in "accidents during training." Six more are believed to have died at the hands of colleagues already indicted on murder. Only eight missing cultists were confirmed as being alive. Leaving 10 unaccounted for cultist, seven of which -- as suggested by their incarcerated leaders -- are possibly already dead.

February 13, 1997 - Kazuaki Okazaki, A former high-ranking cult member testified that Asahara ordered the November 4, 1989, murders of anti-cult lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and their 1-year-old son, in a meeting 24 hours before the killings.

The disgruntled ex-cult member said the portly guru ordered his followers to "poa" Sakamoto, which, in cult speak meant moving to a higher level of consciousness. However, for non cult members it "meant to separate his soul from his body. It meant to kill him."

Asahara immediately disputed the testimony, shouting to Okazaki, "You're not supposed to tell lies," and -- for the fourth time in the proceedings -- was thrown out of the courtroom.

Okazaki then testified he and the five other cultist broke into Sakamoto's apartment and murdered the family. They buried the bodies in three different locations in central Japan. When they returned to the cult's headquarters Asahara told them, "I am guilty as well, and we will all get the death sentence."

January 30, 1997 - The portly doomsday cult guru accused one of his former disciples of directing the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attacks. "Yoshihiro Inoue was the leader in this case. Why do other people have to be arrested as accomplices?"

Inoue, the former "intelligence minister" of the Aum had testified two weeks earlier that Asahara indeed had masterminded the attacks. Inoue recalled being angered by a newspaper article that described how Asahara told police his disciples had carried out the subway attack on their own.

The cantankerous guru then demanded to be allowed to enter a plea, which he previously had refused to do. Judge Fumio Abe told him to make his plea at the proper time, not in the middle of the testimony of a witness. Later Asahara was ejected from the courtroom for talking and being a nuisance.

January 30, 1997 - An independent panel rejected the Japanese government's proposal to ban the doomsday cult saying the group no longer posed an "imminent danger" to society. However, the panel said the Aum remained potentially dangerous and its activities should be kept under strict surveillance.

January 15, 1997 - The Japanese government signaled that it would step back from invoking the never-before used Antisubversive Activities Law to outlaw the Aum.

January 6, 1997 - Following a purification ritual workers began demolishing the former headquarters of the AUM Supreme Truth at base of Mt. Fuji.

December 20 - The Tokyo District Court ordered eight members of the Aum Shinrikyo to pay 100 million yen in compensation for killing four people in the sarin gas attack in June, 1994, in Matsumoto.

December 11, 1996 - A former Ground Self-Defense Force officer who was a member of the religious cult Aum Supreme Truth was arrested for allegedly planting a bomb in Tokyo in March 1995.

December 9, 1996 - According to documents released by authorities, doomsday cult guru Shoko Asahara confessed last year to the police to ordering the murder of an anti-cult lawyer and his family.

December 3, 1996 - Tokyo Police arrested Yasuo Hayashi, 38, the most wanted member of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult still at large. Police were anxious to find Hayashi because he is suspected of placing nerve gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Authorities had posted his picture and life-size models of him in train stations and post offices throughout the country. Police said Hayashi was accompanied by another Aum follower, Eiko Obora, 27, who was arrested on charges of helping hide a fugitive.

November 21, 1996 - The Aum opened to reporters what has been dubbed the cult's "new hideout" by the Public Security Investigation Agency. The two rooms in a four-story office complex in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward are now the Aum's public relations office and accommodations. A definite step down from their sprawling Mt. Fuji complex they recently vacated.

November 21, 1996 - Toru Toyoda, a cult physicist and ex disciple of the portly guru testified at the Tokyo District Court that Asahara gave the orders for the March, 1995, subway gas attack. As Toyoda testified that at the time he believed that the gas was intended to save people's souls, the guru, complaining of a fever, was not allowed to leave the courtroom, as he requested repeatedly through his lawyer.

November 14 , 1996 - Two Aum Shinrikyo fugitives were arrested in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. Zenji Yagisawa turned himself in, saying he was tired of life as a fugitive. He provided information that led to the apprehension of Koichi Kitamura. Yagisawa is suspected of playing a key role in the bungled cyanide gas attack at Shinjuku Station in May 1995. Kitamura was wanted for alleged involvement in the Tokyo subway attack.

October 26, 1996 - Japanese media reported that investigators who heard a Tokyo police officer confess to shooting the country's top police official tried to keep the admission a secret.

October 25, 1996 - A 31-year-old officer, whose name has not been released, said he was a member of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult and that cult leaders had ordered him to kill Takaji Kunimatsu, the chief of Japan's National Police Agency.

Kunimatsu was shot and wounded outside his Tokyo apartment building on March 30, 1995, 10 days after a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Kunimatsu was rushed to a hospital unconscious, but recovered after undergoing an eight-hour operation.

October 24, 1996 - In a fit of apocalyptic rage, Shoko Asahara was reportedly placed in protective custody after going berserk in his jail cell. Apparently Shoko had to be restrained after he repeatedly screamed and banged on his cell walls.

October 18, 1996 - In his latest court appearance, Shoko Asahara, Japan's portly doomsday guru, said the gods had spoken to him and told him they don't want Yoshihiro Inoue, a former senior leader of the cult, to take the stand. Shoko proceeded to shoulder full responsibility for the attacks in an attempt to stop the cross-examination by the defense which, the gods said, would harm the Inoue's soul. Caught by surprise, his lawyers didn't know how to explain his sudden admittance of guilt.

In a strangely talkative mood, the blind guru added: "I feel bitter thinking about the suffering people would face by tormenting such a great soul as Inoue." When Inoue approached the witness stand, Asahara abruptly said to him: "I may appear to be mentally disturbed, but will you try to float from where you are?"

Toward the end of the session, Asahara began twitching and asked that he be allowed to sit in the lotus position. The judge rejected the request. Then he started holding his head prompting the defense to explain that, "the defendant told us his head has been in danger of exploding since this morning, so he was trying to hold it down with his hands."

Asahara's convulsions got progressively worse and he started bouncing in his seat precipitating an early end to the hearing.

August 9, 1996 - Japanese authorities began the demolition of three buildings in the doomsday cult's facilities at the foot of Mt. Fuji. This Aum complex in the Yamanashi Prefecture includes the chemical plant where the sarin used in the 1995 subway attack was allegedly produced.

August 7, 1996 - The Tokyo District Court ordered Aum founder Shoko Asahara to pay 163 million yen in damages to the family of a public notary clerk allegedly killed by the cult.

July 25, 1996 - Bankruptcy administrators of the Aum closed three buildings at the Aum's main compound near Mt. Fuji in the Yamanashi Prefecture after all followers vacated the premises.

July 25, 1996 - Japanese police announced its continuing investigating 28 cases of Aum Shinrikyo members who are listed as missing or died of undetermined causes. Most of the 10 cultists missing disappeared in 1994. Some Aum members told police they were involved in "disposing of the bodies," but investigators have been unable to uncover evidence to prove their claims

The death certificates of 18 members who died at cult facilities were all prepared by Aum doctors. Police so far have investigated six deaths as homicides, and treated four as death from illnesses. Eight others are believed to have been accidents.

July 23, 1996 - Japanese academics and lawyers protested the Public Security Investigation Agency's move to apply the Antisubversive Activities Law against Aum Shinrikyo.

July 16, 1996 - Kozo Fujinaga, a top cult member, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping build the cult's sarin factory and modifying a car used to release the poisonous gas in the June 1994 attack in Matsumoto.

July 11, 1996 - Shoko Asahara again refused to enter a plea after six criminal cases against him were read by prosecutors. The cases include the 1995 kidnapping of a Tokyo notary public who allegedly died in captivity. Since the begining of his trial Shoko has refused to enter pleas in all 17 cases against him.

July 11, 1996 - The Japanese Justice Ministry and the Public Security Investigation Agency submitted a request to the Public Security Commission to have the Antisubversive Activities Law applied to the Aum Shinrikyo.

June 12, 1996 - 52-year-old Mitsuo Okada died in a Tokyo hospital after being in a coma since last year's nerve gas attack. His death raises the official death toll to 12 for the gas attack on five crowded subway lines.

May 16, 1996 - In his second court appearance the blind cult leader was charged with killing seven and wounding 144 people in a 1994 trial gas attack in Matsumoto, a town north of Tokyo. Prosecutors also presented evidence showing that the doomsday leader ordered his disciples to build a sarin plant to produce 70 tons of the lethal Nazi-invented gas. He also ordered the production of 1,000 automatic rifles and one million bullets in preparation for an attempt to topple the Japanese Government.

April 25, 1996 - In the opening day of his trial, Shoko Asahara, the leader of the deadly cult Aum Shinrikyo, refused to enter a plea to charges of masterminding the March 20, 1995 gas attack in the Tokyo subway that killed 11 people and sickened 4,000 others.

December 15 1995 - Japanese Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama approved the use of a Cold War law to disband the Aum Shinrikyo. Justice Minister Hiroshi Miyazawa said the cult posed a public safety threat due to its anti-state ideology and stockpiles of weapons and toxic chemicals. Many lawyers and social activist view the government's action as unconstitutional.


CrimeAnti-Copyright A. MendozaReload