Counsel can’t attend guru exam, hit on procedure

The Tokyo High Court lashed out at Shoko Asahara‘s defense team Friday, saying they were harming the Aum Shinrikyo founder’s interests by not submitting a document explaining why they sought to appeal his death sentence.

The defense team had the explanatory documents in hand when they met Wednesday with Masaru Suda, the presiding judge in the case, but refused to submit them when the court rejected their request to be present at Asahara’s psychiatric test and to question any doctor who examines him.

The lawyers have repeatedly said they have been unable to communicate with the guru, who earlier reports said was in a babbling, diaper-clad stupor.

The 50-year-old Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court for masterminding 13 criminal cases carried out by his doomsday cult, including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

His counsel had until Wednesday to submit papers to the high court explaining why they were appealing the ruling.

On Friday, the court said their refusal to turn in the document “ignores legal rules and abandons the basic obligations of a lawyer,” and reiterated its order for the counsel to submit the paper.

The order was given over the telephone and by fax, according to the court.

The court said it had a psychiatrist who has tentatively agreed to examine Asahara. The doctor’s name and the time of the examination were not disclosed, but the court claimed that to ensure fairness, the doctor would work under oath and the examination would follow the law.

After the lawyers refused to submit the explanatory document, the court warned them their situation was such that, even if they decided to submit it later, the situation might no longer qualify as an “inevitable delay” as outlined in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

If the results of the psychiatric examination are that Asahara is competent to stand trial and at that time the defense has not yet filed the document with the court, the appeal will probably be rejected.

The lawyers have maintained they will not submit the document unless they are allowed to be present for the examination.

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The Japan Times, Japan
Sep. 3, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday September 3, 2005.
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