Tokyo, 31 August: Defence lawyers for AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara said Wednesday [31 August] they decided not to submit a document the same day stating the reason for appealing against his death penalty sentence, thus missing the deadline set by the Tokyo High Court.
The defence lawyers have said they cannot submit it because they cannot communicate with Asahara, 50.
The failure to submit the document would lead to the finalizing of the death sentence handed down by the Tokyo District Court on 27 February last year.
But Asahara’s lawyers said the high court told them it will postpone any decision on the appeal until it obtains the results of a psychiatric exam and hears expert opinions on whether Asahara is competent to continue standing trial.
The psychiatric exam is expected to take several months.
If the high court concludes from the psychiatric exam that Asahara is competent and if the defence team does not submit the document by the time the result of the exam is known, the high court is highly likely to dismiss the appeal.
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The defence team made a second request 29 July to suspend the trial until Asahara’s mental state improves and asked the high court to extend the deadline for the submission of the document on the appeal.
But the high court rejected the request to suspend the trial on 19 August, saying it believes Asahara is competent to stand trial. It also decided to conduct a psychiatric exam.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the fatal sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
AUM has renamed itself Aleph.