TOKYO, March 11–(Kyodo) — The Tokyo High Court has rejected a plea by defense lawyers for AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara to postpone the deadline for submission of their opinion paper to challenge the credibility of a court-appointed psychiatrist’s report, which says Asahara is mentally competent to stand trial, the lawyers said Saturday.
The court requested the defense team to submit its paper by March 15 after it received the report by Akira Nishiyama, while the lawyers asked the court to postpone the submission date until April 15.
The defense team has asked five experts so far to check the mental state of Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and all of them came out with views that question the credibility of Nishiyama’s judgment.
The lawyers said they will follow the court’s request to submit the paper by March 15, while the court is expected to judge if Asahara, 51, is mentally competent by the end of this month.
Asahara, 51, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February last year for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The defense has appealed the ruling to the high court.
As the defense lawyers did not submit a statement giving the reason for the appeal by the deadline of last August, the court is likely to reject their appeal if it finds Asahara competent to stand trial, finalizing the death penalty against him without opening hearings.
AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.