Kyodo (Japan), Feb. 5, 2003
TOKYO — Families of people who died in crimes attributed to the Aum Shinrikyo cult as well as survivors will testify in court of their experiences for the first time, probably in March, in line with an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure, prosecution sources said Tuesday.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decided to make such a request to the Tokyo District Court so that the victims’ families and survivors would be able to speak in the trial of Aum founder Shoko Asahara.
The revised law requires courts to allow victims of crime to speak if they make requests through prosecutors.
The victims’ families and survivors are likely to talk about how they suffered in crimes attributed to the sect, including sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway in 1995 and in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994, as well as what punishment they want for Asahara, 47, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.
The prosecutors are expected to ask the court to allow them to state their opinions after the prosecutors finish questioning Asahara, because the victims want to hear his answers.
The Tokyo court has already set aside three days of Asahara’s trial in March, but exactly who will speak has not been decided, the sources said.
The prosecutors also plan to submit written statements by victims.
In the past, over 10 families of victims and survivors of the Tokyo and Matsumoto attacks, which left 19 dead and thousands injured, attended Asahara’s trial and testified in 2001 to support the prosecutors’ claims regarding damages they suffered.
Families of other victims and survivors also asked the prosecutors to allow them to have such an opportunity, the sources said.
The revised Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a court cannot use such remarks by victims of crime as evidence in determining the facts of a case, but it can use them to decide appropriate punishment for offenders.
In recent sessions of his trial, Asahara, who has been indicted in 13 crime cases including the two sarin gas attacks, has not responded to questions from the presiding judge or defense lawyers.
Aum, which renamed itself Aleph in January 2000, is still under surveillance by public security authorities on grounds that the sect is still capable of committing indiscriminate mass murder. (Kyodo News)