Aum Shinrikyo: Psychiatrist backs Japan’s doomsday guru

Tokyo – The doomsday cult guru sentenced to death over a 1995 nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway is mentally unfit and shows no reaction to his children, a psychiatrist defending him said Thursday.

The Tokyo High Court has rejected two appeal motions filed on behalf of Aum Supreme Truth founder Shoko Asahara, a nearly blind former acupuncturist who preached of a coming apocalypse.

He has little chance left of escaping the death penalty unless the Supreme Court accepts his lawyers’ stance that he has a mental disorder.

Haruo Akimoto, one of five psychiatrists who examined the guru at the request of his lawyers, said outside court that he was sure that Asahara was ill and accused the courts of succumbing to public pressure.

“When I met with Shoko Asahara in February and in June, he showed no interest in anything I asked. There was no reaction from him,” said Akimoto, who is 100 years old and has taken part in high-profile cases in the past.

“Even when I brought his beloved second daughter to a second meeting in June, he didn’t look at her or say a word despite her tearful calls to her father,” he told a press conference.

“Court decisions tend to cater to public opinion. That’s the most serious problem of the nation’s judicial system,” he said.

A High Court-appointed psychiatrist in February said Asahara was faking his illness and still had the ability to communicate if he wished to.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, allegedly ordered his supporters to release Nazi-invented sarin gas on crowded trains at rush hour on March 20, 1995 to preempt police raids on the cult. Twelve people died and thousands were injured.

He was sentenced to death in February 2004 for the subway attack and other crimes that claimed a total of 27 lives.

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The Nation, Thailand
June 29, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday June 30, 2006.
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