16 Jan 2014

Trial of sarin attack cult member begins

9:09 pm on 16 January 2014

The trial has begun in Japan of one of the members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, nearly 20 years after the group carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

Makoto Hirata.

Makoto Hirata. Photo: AFP / Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept

Makoto Hirata walked into a police station and gave himself up in 2012.

Mr Hirata is not accused directly of taking part in the gas attack in 1995. Instead, he is charged with the abduction and murder of 68-year-old Kiyoshi Kariya, a lawyer investigating the cult's activities.

If convicted, Mr Hirata could face the death penalty. Thirteen other members of the Aum cult have already been sentenced to death and some of them will appear as witnesses in Mr Hirata's trial, the BBC reports.

It's for that reason that the Japanese authorities have delayed carrying out any of the death sentences until all of these trials are over.

Aum Shinrikyo began as a spiritual group mixing Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, but became a paranoid doomsday cult obsessed with Armageddon.