TOKYO, Aug. 19–(Kyodo) — The Tokyo High Court said Friday it will give AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, who is appealing a death sentence, a psychiatric examination and hear expert opinion on whether he is competent to stand trial.
Presiding Judge Masaru Suda said the court also decided to reject a defense request to suspend the trial until Asahara’s mental state improves.
The court decided against extending the deadline beyond Aug. 31 for the submission of documents stating the reason for the appeal.
The high court earlier extended the deadline from the initial Jan. 11 to Aug. 31, but refused to put it off further, saying it stands firm in its determination that Asahara is competent to stand trial.
Suda said the court will test Asahara’s mental state because the defense counsel presented a written report by a psychiatric expert saying Asahara lacks litigation capacity and because the case is critical as the death sentence was handed down by a district court.
The high court has not indicated when or how the exam will be conducted.
The death sentence handed down on Asahara, 50, by the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 27 last year would become final if the deadline is missed. But the high court is expected to postpone any decision to reject the appeal until the results of the psychiatric exam are known.
The defense lawyers have said they cannot submit the reason for appeal because they cannot communicate with Asahara, but the high court said Friday it “strongly expects” the document to be handed in by the deadline.
In October last year, the defense counsel asked the high court to suspend Asahara’s trial so he could be tested as he was suffering from a mental disorder. The court rejected the request in December that year.
In late July, the counsel filed a second request for the court to suspend his trial, submitting with it the psychiatrist’s report, and also asked for another extension of the document deadline.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the fatal sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
AUM has renamed itself Aleph.