Workers, relatives remember deadly Aum sarin attack on 19th anniversary

Kyodo

Workers at Kasumigaseki Station in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, offered flowers and prayers Thursday to mark the 19th anniversary of the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the subway system by the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

At 8 a.m., around the same time the group’s members released the nerve gas on several Tokyo subway lines on March 20, 1995, about 20 workers held a silent prayer to honor two Kasumigaseki Station attendants who died, as well as other victims.

The attack killed 13 and injured more than 6,000 people.

“It is our daily duty to ensure safety,” said Tokyo Metro Co.’s Kasumigaseki district manager Mitsuaki Ota, who placed flowers on a stand specially set up in the station office to commemorate the victims. “I’ll do my best to make sure passengers can use (the subway system) without fear.”

Commemorative stands were also set up for victims’ relatives and other Tokyo subway users at Nakano-sakaue, Kodemmacho, Hatchobori, Tsukiji and Kamiyacho stations.

Shizue Takahashi, 67, the widow of Kasumigaseki Station deputy stationmaster Kazumasa Takahashi, one of the two attendants who died in the attack, offered a bouquet of yellow and white flowers for the victims at the station.

The deputy stationmaster died after trying to remove a leaking plastic bag filled with liquid sarin from a subway train.

His widow, who now heads a group of victims of the sarin attack, told reporters she felt relieved to see the recent trial of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata, 48, who was sentenced for his involvement in a number of attacks carried out by the cult.

Takahashi said she was glad to see the light of public scrutiny shine again on the sarin attack and the cult’s other crimes.

“I am most worried about (people) becoming indifferent,” she said. “I want to keep telling people about the attack so that such a thing never happens again.”

Transport minister Akihiro Ota also offered flowers in commemoration.

Thirteen former members of the cult, including its founder — Shoko Asahara, 59, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto — are currently awaiting execution on death row.

Hirata, one of the three Aum Shinrikyo fugitives longest on the lam, hid for 17 years before turning himself in on New Year’s Eve 2011. He was found guilty March 7 and sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the cult’s 1995 kidnapping and confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya and two other crimes.