Scars of the sarin attack

Fifteen years after the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by AUM Shinrikyo cult members, the effects of the crime continue to be felt. The March 20, 1995, attack killed 13 people. It was recently confirmed that at least 6,252 people suffered injuries, a number that may increase as the victim-certification process proceeds. Survivors of the subway attack suffer from physical and psychological maladies including limb paralysis, visual impairment, speech impediments and posttraumatic stress disorder.

AUM Shinrikyo is responsible for a series of crimes that includes the Nov. 4, 1989, murder of a Yokohama lawyer and his family, the June 27, 1994, spread of sarin gas in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which killed eight people and injured some 600 others, and the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack. The involvement of AUM Shinrikyo members in the March 30, 1995 shooting attack on Mr. Takaji Kunimatsu, then the National Police Agency chief, is also suspected.

A total of 189 people have been indicted in connection with AUM Shinrikyo crimes. Ten, including AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, were sentenced to death (seven of them in connection with the Tokyo subway attack) and five others were given life sentences. Three wanted AUM followers remain at large. The statute of limitations for the attack on Mr. Kunimatsu will expire at the end of this month.

Survivors and family members of victims have made remarkable efforts to prevent the AUM Shinrikyo crimes from being forgotten. Their activism has contributed to the enactment of various laws that help victims of crime and their families. A law that came into effect in December 2008 has led the government to offer a total of some ¥2.34 billion to some 5,000 survivors of or family members of victims of eight AUM Shinrikyo crimes.

Efforts to expand compensatory measures and examine the investigation of the crimes must continue. In covering future events, the media should not forget its past mistakes, such as incorrectly reporting that a man whose wife died in 2008 from the Matsumoto sarin attack was involved in the crime.