Defense presents statement doubting Asahara’s ability to stand trial

TOKYO, March 9_(Kyodo) — The defense counsel for AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara on Thursday filed a statement by four experts, challenging the credibility of a psychiatric report compiled by a court-appointed psychiatrist that suggested he is mentally competent to stand trial.

The defense also reiterated its call for the high court to allow it to conduct cross questioning of the psychiatrist, Akira Nishiyama, and to conduct another round of psychiatric checks on Asahara.

Asahara, 51, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The defense has appealed the ruling to the high court.

Among the four experts were Masaaki Noda, a psychopathologist and professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, who interviewed Asahara at the Tokyo Detention House on Jan. 6 this year; psychiatrist and novelist Otohiko Kaga; and Setsuo Nakajima, a doctor of psychiatry and former Kitasato University assistant professor.

In the statement filed with the Tokyo High Court, Noda said Nishiyama is basically wrong because of his failure to spend sufficient time appraising Asahara’s mental condition.

Kaga, whose real name is Sadataka Kogi, said Nishiyama overlooked Asahara’s basic tendency to create fantasies and tell lies, a characteristic medically known as pseudologia phantastica. The psychiatrist made mistakes in the usage of certain terms and produced an unreliable conclusion, he said.

Nakajima urged the high court to ask academic organizations to pick a neutral and reliable appraiser.

The defense said Thursday it plans to file its own argument against Nishiyama’s psychiatric report in response to the high court’s call for it to file an opinion by March 15. It said it has asked the high court to postpone the deadline for submission until April 15.

On Feb. 20, Nishiyama submitted his report to the high court, saying Asahara has kept silent of his own free will and suggesting he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Asahara is maintaining silence because of his reaction to prison but there are no grounds for declaring he is unable to make utterances, the report says.

On Feb. 24, prosecutors asked the high court to turn down the defense’s appeal against Asahara’s death sentence given two years ago, saying it should not open hearings because the defense did not submit a statement giving the reason for the appeal by the deadline of last August.

Defense lawyers have said they did not meet the deadline as they could not communicate with the defendant, who they said is in a state of serious mental disorder and cannot stand trial. The lawyers also called for a halt to court procedures for Asahara.

AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.

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Kyodo News Service, Japan
Mar. 9, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday March 9, 2006.
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