Executed Japanese cult founder's body cremated

TOKYO — The body of executed doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara was cremated Monday, but the authorities are keeping the remains at a Tokyo detention center while they determine how safely they can keep them without attracting his followers.

Asahara, 63, was executed Friday with six other cult members over the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing and other crimes. The subway attack killed 13 and injured more than 6,000.

The ownership of Asahara's remains has become a major concern as some experts warn of a risk that his followers may try to steal and deify them. The Tokyo detention center and the crematorium were under tight security Monday, with police guarding the gates to prevent any robbing attempt by his followers.

Currently, the ownership of the remains is being contested between Asahara's fourth daughter, Satoka Matsumoto, and most of the remaining family, which includes his wife and three other children.

Asahara reportedly nominated the fourth daughter as a caretaker of his remains. But her elder sister, Rika Matsumoto, disputed the claim, saying in her blog that Asahara couldn't have been capable of making the instruction given his confused state of mind. Asahara was a broken man and was not capable of communicating, she said.

Lawyer Taro Takimoto, who represents the fourth daughter, said Monday that the remains would stay at the detention center until the authorities pick an owner.

Born Chizuo Matsumoto in 1955, Asahara founded Aum Shinrikyo in the mid-1980s, attracting young people disillusioned with the modern materialistic way of life.

Aum was disbanded, but about 1,600 people still follow his teachings. The authorities remain on alert for possible retaliation from them after the executions. Six other cult members remain on death row.


Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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