Shoko Asahara, the leader of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, and several of his followers were executed Friday, Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed sources.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and 12 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult were sentenced to death for a string of crimes that killed a total of 27 people, including the gas attack that left 13 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.
Several cult members have been hanged in addition to Asahara, Kyodo reported without giving an exact number.
They were the first members of the cult to be executed.
Asahara and the former members were due to be hanged anytime after the group-related trials over their crimes came to an end in January.
The Justice Ministry said in March it had transferred seven of the 13 from the Tokyo detention centre to other facilities across Japan. The country has the custom of not executing criminals on death row until the sentences of their accomplices are finalized.
Some experts urged the ministry not to execute them as their experience could help prevent similar crimes.
Some activists and Rika Matsumoto, Asahara’s third daughter, had also opposed the execution of Asahara, who is believed to be mentally and physically troubled.
Her family members had long demanded he be treated, Matsumoto said. But the Tokyo detention centre and courts refused, saying he was in good health.
Japan is one of the few major industrialized countries to administer capital punishment, alongside the United States.