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AUM’s Asahara May Get Public Defenders

Kyodo News Service, Japan
May 1, 2004 • Sunday May 2, 2004

TOKYO, May 2 (Kyodo) — Court-appointed lawyers may defend AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara in his appeal against the death penalty as the one private lawyer currently defending him may not be enough to handle his case, trial sources said Saturday.

According to the sources, some judges at the Tokyo High Court are voicing concern that unless several lawyers are appointed by the court to defend Asahara, the appeal trial could extend over too long a period.

It is extremely rare for state-appointed lawyers to defend an accused who already has a private lawyer, but some judges are saying the measure should be taken considering that this is an ”exceptionally large case.”

In February, the Tokyo District Court imposed the death sentence on Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. It found him guilty of all 13 charges against him, including murder and attempted murder in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

A team of 12 state-appointed lawyers had appealed the ruling to the Tokyo High Court but are not defending him in the appeal trial.

Takeshi Matsui, a lawyer who represents two of Asahara’s daughters, will be working for Asahara in the appeal trial.

According to the sources, some judges at the Tokyo High Court are opposed to appointing public defenders for Asahara.

Judge Masaru Suda, who will preside over the appeal trial, will have the final say in the matter.

Even with more than 10 lawyers, Asahara’s trial at the Tokyo District Court took about seven years and 10 months, with its dossier exceeding 50,000 pages.

A trial generating records of more than 10,000 pages is regarded as a large case, according to the sources.

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