TOKYO, March 28–(Kyodo)– The defense counsels for AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara said Tuesday they will file an objection Wednesday or Thursday against Monday’s Tokyo High Court decision that turned down their appeal against Asahara’s death sentence given by a lower court two years ago.
The objection will be filed also with the Tokyo High Court. A separate three-judge panel, other than one that rejected the appeal Monday, will consider the objection to look into technical and procedural matters that led to Monday’s decision by Presiding Judge Masaru Suda’s three-judge panel.
Legal experts say chances are slim that the new panel led by Presiding Judge Yu Shiraki will overturn Monday’s decision.
If Shiraki’s panel throws away the objection, the defense still can file an appeal this time with the Supreme Court. Asahara’s death sentence will stand without an appeal court hearing if the top court turns down the appeal.
Asahara’s defense lawyers said they originally intended to file the objection Tuesday but gave up the plan because an unexpectedly long time was necessary to analyze Monday’s high court decision.
In the decision, Judge Suda reasoned that the defense lawyers had failed to present their case for an appeal before the court-mandated deadline and that there is “no doubt” the defendant is mentally fit to stand trial, despite the defense team’s claim to the contrary.
Asahara, 51, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500 others. The defense appealed the decision to the high court. AUM Shinrikyo (AUM Supreme Truth) has renamed itself Aleph.