TOKYO, March 27–(Kyodo)– The Tokyo High Court decided to reject an appeal filed by the defense counsel of AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, increasing the likelihood that his death sentence will stand without a court hearing.
Citing the reasons behind its decision, the high court said the defense had failed to present their case within the designated deadline for an appeal and said there is no doubt the defendant is mentally fit to stand trial, despite the defense team’s claim to the contrary.
Asahara, 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 that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500 others. The defense appealed the decision to the high court.
The defense were required to present their case for an appeal in August but refused to take the step, saying Asahara was mentally unfit to stand trial.
The counsel recently reversed their position after a court-appointed psychiatrist said the defendant is mentally fit. They just said last week that they would file their case shortly.
AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.
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