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Aum cult survivors and kin testify • Friday March 28, 2003

They want death for man accused of directing Sarin gas attack
AFP, Mar. 28, 2003,4386,179746,00.html

TOKYO – Relatives of the victims of gas attacks by the Aum Supreme Truth cult vented their anger at the trial of its leader yesterday and demanded the death sentence for him.

The greying, bearded and nearly blind Shoko Asahara, 48, appeared for his latest hearing in the Tokyo district court in a grey sweater and black pants.

He showed no emotion as survivors of the attacks and their relatives talked about their ordeals for the first time since his trial opened seven years ago.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, kept his arms crossed and occasionally turned his face to the public gallery with his eyes shut.

‘Considering he was the leader…I think he deserves capital punishment,’ said a 43-year-old man, whose 39-year-old sister has been bedridden since she fell victim to the cult’s Sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995.

The witness, who gave his name in sworn testimony but asked the media not to identify him for fear of reprisals by the cult, said it was ‘irrational’ that Asahara was fed and clothed while families of the victims suffered mentally and financially.

The gas attack during the morning rush hour killed 12 people and injured thousands of others.

In a written statement read out by a prosecutor, one woman testified: ‘My father had been bedridden for one year and three months and died without opening his eyes or saying a word’ after he inhaled the Sarin gas.

Asahara ‘should disappear from this world in the way my father did’, she said.

Asahara has denied masterminding the attack and blamed his disciples, despite testimony from most followers that the offences were committed under his direction. He has made virtually no statement at his trial since January 1998 apart from murmuring incoherently, and has often appeared to doze off during proceedings.

He has refused even to answer his own lawyers’ questions.

If he remains silent at a session on April 10, prosecutors are expected to make their closing argument against him on April 24.

He is charged with murder and various other crimes in connection to 13 cases.

So far, nine of his disciples have been sentenced to death for their part in the Tokyo incident and other attacks.

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