Court trials on a series of deadly crimes committed by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on subway trains in Tokyo, have effectively been wrapped up — nearly 23 years after the police cracked down on the doomsday cult accused of the crimes that killed 29 people and injured more than 6,000 others. Despite the massive amount of time spent in courtrooms and convictions that led to 13 Aum members being put on death row, however, much about the cult’s unprecedented crimes remains a mystery — such as the exact motives behind the subway gas attack and how and why the Aum followers, including highly educated youths with promising career prospects, had been drawn to the cult and came to commit the heinous crimes upon the orders of its founder and guru, Shoko Asahara.
The Aum trials exposed the limitations of the nation’s criminal justice system. The end of the marathon trial process should provide an opportunity to review whether reforms introduced to the court trial system in an effort to fix problems highlighted by the trials are really sufficient to find answers to the kind of questions raised by the Aum crimes.
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