The Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Apr. 11, 2003
The final session to examine evidence in the trial of Aum Supreme Truth cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, was held Thursday, seven years after the trial began in 1996. A ruling is expected to be handed down by next spring.
The court set April 24 as the day for prosecutors to present their final arguments. Prosecutors are expected to claim Matsumoto masterminded a series of crimes committed by the cult that resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people, and demand the death penalty.
During Thursday’s hearing at the Tokyo District Court, the 253rd in the long trial, victims of the cult’s crimes were allowed to present statements.
Matsumoto was also questioned for the third time, but remained silent, refusing to answer any of the questions posed by his defense lawyers, as he has done in previous hearings. Presiding Judge Shoji Ogawa decided to terminate the questioning session.
Prosecutors did not question him at all.
After examing evidence submitted to the court, the judge informed Matsumoto of the dates for final arguments before adjourning the court.
The defense team for the cult founder will present their concluding arguments on October 30 and 31.
Although Ogawa did not mention a date for passing sentence on Matsumoto during Thursday’s session, it was expected to be handed down in February or March next year.
Matsumoto was indicted for 13 different crimes that resulted in the deaths of 27 people, including sarin gas attacks in a residential area of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture and Tokyo subway, the murder of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a lawyer who worked against the cult, and his entire family, and the illegal manufacture of automatic rifles.
Prosecutors believe all the crimes committed by cult devotees were masterminded by then leader Matsumoto. They are expected to argue that the judges should rule in favor of extreme punishment and demand a death sentence for Matsumoto at the session to begin at 10 a.m. on April 24.