Prosecutors asked the Tokyo High Court on Friday to turn down an appeal filed by the defense counsel for Shoko Asahara, founder of the cult formerly known as AUM Shinrikyo, against a death sentence given to him two years ago for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Asahara’s death sentence may stand if the three-judge high court panel decides not to open hearings and reject the appeal, judicial experts say.
The Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office filed the request with the high court, saying it should not open hearings because the defense did not submit a statement giving the reason for the appeal by the deadline of last August.
A psychiatric report on Asahara, submitted to the court Monday, has confirmed he is mentally competent to stand trial, the prosecutors said.
The lawyers have said they did not meet the deadline as they could not communicate with the defendant who they said is in a state of serious mental disorder and cannot stand trial. The lawyers also called for a halt to court procedures on Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedures requires a court of appeals to turn down an appeal if a statement on its reason is not presented by a set deadline.
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Taking a break?
Presiding Judge Masaru Suda has urged the defense to file its opinion on the psychiatric report in written form by March 15.
In the report, released to the media Tuesday, psychiatrist Akira Nishiyama says Asahara has kept silence on his own free will and suggests he is mentally competent to stand trial.
Asahara, detained for more than a decade since his arrest in May 1995, shows symptoms of prison reaction — a kind of mental disorder — but is not in a state of insanity, the psychiatric report says.
Asahara is trying to defend himself with fictions and lies, an action stemming from his desire for a not-guilty verdict, the report says. “The defendant does not want his trial to go on, but he has not lost his litigation capacity.”
Asahara was sentenced to death at the Tokyo District Court in February 2004. The defense team has appealed the ruling to the high court.
AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.