Japan’s doomsday cult guru, whose lawyers are appealing a death sentence over a 1995 nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway, has maintained his innocence and was therefore fit for trial, a newspaper reports.
“I’m innocent. I was trapped,” Shoko Asahara, the founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, said in late March days after he was informed of a decision by the Tokyo High Court to dismiss his appeal against a death sentence, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Some psychiatrists have earlier said Asahara was mentally unfit as the accused, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, kept mumbling to himself and showed no reaction to his children.
Haruo Akimoto, one of five psychiatrists who examined the guru at the request of his lawyers, said Asahara was mentally ill and accused the courts of succumbing to public pressure.
But the mass-circulation said his recent remarks, which indicated he was mentally capable of understanding trial procedures, are likely to back up the high court’s decision.
Asahara’s lawyers, still insisting he lacked the capacity to understand his situation in the trial, are appealing the high court’s decision to the Supreme Court.
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If the Supreme Court turns down the appeal, Matsumoto’s death sentence will be finalized.
Asahara, a former acupuncturist who preached an apocalyptic mix of Buddhist and Hindu dogma, was convicted of ordering his cult to release the sarin on trains on March 20, 1995.
The bearded, heavy-set guru was paranoid his enemies would use sarin against him and wanted to pre-empt authorities’ raids on the cult.
The Public Security Intelligence Agency reportedly fears the confirmation of Asahara’s death sentence could unleash extreme behavior from cult supporters.
The sect changed its name in early 2000 to Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, deposed Asahara as its leader and apologized for past wrongdoing. But investigators say Aum members still follow Asahara’s teachings.