The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), Aug. 5, 2002
A verdict on Chizuo Matsumoto, founder of Aum Shinrikyo, could come as early as fall 2003, court sources said over the weekend.
Matsumoto faces 27 murder counts in 13 separate incidents, including the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 that killed 12.
Matsumoto is considered the mastermind behind the Aum sarin attacks as well as other crimes, including the kidnapping and murder of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family.
Both prosecution and defense sources said a verdict was likely in the fall of 2003, now that defense legal tactics are clear.
The defense has listed 18 potential witnesses and so far 10, mostly former Aum members, have been approved.
Defense sources said questioning of witnesses could end next February.
Sources with the prosecutors said final arguments would be made soon after in March.
The next question is how much time the Tokyo District Court will give defense attorneys to prepare final arguments.
One wild card is whether Matsumoto himself will answer questions in court. He has been called to testify in the cases of his former Aum disciples, but has refused to take the witness’s oath.