TOKYO, March 17–(Kyodo) AUM founder Shoko Asahara is strongly suspected to be suffering from an organic brain disease, a psychiatrist who visited him last autumn said Thursday [17 March]. Sadao Nakajima, 67, told Kyodo News he cannot rule out the possibility that Asahara, 50, may be faking his condition, but said a psychiatric examination is necessary to check whether or not he is actually suffering from a brain disorder.
Nakajima, who formerly taught at Kitasato University, therefore criticized the Tokyo High Court’s decision to reject a request to suspend his trial in order to conduct a psychiatric test on Asahara. Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court on 27 February last year for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the fatal sarin attack on Tokyo subway trains in 1995. His defence team has appealed the ruling.
Nakajima met with Asahara for half an hour last November with permission from the high court after his lawyers asked him to examine the defendant’s mental condition. The psychiatrist said Asahara did not react to his queries about his physical and mental condition, only sniffing, slightly moving his lips and nodding without saying anything meaningful or seeming to respond to him.
Considering reports from the detention centre that Asahara no longer utters words, that he has been unable to control his bladder and bowel movements and that he has been receiving care as he cannot bathe or make his bed on his own, Nakajima suggested he may be suffering from a condition such as Pick’s disease, a degenerative brain illness that causes dementia.
Although there is a possibility that Asahara is faking it, Nakajima said that continuing to act in this way for such a long time “requires an extremely strong will”. The defence team sought a suspension of the trial, saying Asahara is not capable of continuing with court proceedings due to physical and mental disorders, but the high court rejected the request last December after the judges met with the defendant.