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Shoko Asahara, founder of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, was convicted of masterminding the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. He was sentenced to death in 2004.
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During the trial, the remaining members of Aum Shinrikyo distanced themselves from Asahara and denounced terrorism. The trial lasted eight years due to a scandal with one of the defense attorneys who was accused, but later acquitted, of obstruction. Asahara also refused to cooperate with his later court-appointed attorneys, claiming insanity. He was finally convicted of 13 separate crimes in 2004, and was sentenced to death. His final appeal was dismissed in 2006. Today,
Asahara is reportedly confined to a wheelchair and unable to respond to anyone coherently.
The Aum Shinrikyo organization was renamed Aleph in 2002, and its members have distanced themselves from the criminal acts of the 1990s. However, they continue to use Shoko Asahara's teachings.
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Combine a charismatic personality with fringe beliefs and an appetite for violence, and you get some of history's most notorious cult leaders. Charles Manson terrorized frightened Americans in the late 1960s, convincing his followers to commit heinous murders in his name. David Koresh led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, leading to a standoff with the federal government in 1993 that resulted in the death of Koresh and 75 of his believers. Learn about these leaders, and many more, who inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies—often with tragic results.
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