Lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara have filed a special appeal with the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the Tokyo High Court’s rejection of his appeal against the death sentence.
Asahara’s sentence for his role in the cult’s crimes, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subways, will stand if the top court does not overrule the high court decision. The appeal was filed Monday.
The top court is unlikely to overrule high court’s decision unless there was a violation of the Constitution or if a precedent can be found.
Asahara’s lawyers missed the Aug. 31, 2005, deadline for submitting a statement citing the reason for their appeal against the death sentence Asahara received from the Tokyo District Court in February 2004, saying they could not establish meaningful communication with their client, whom they claim is not competent to stand trial.
But the high court turned down the appeal March 27, describing the defense’s failure to submit the statement a dereliction of duty and brushing aside the argument about Asahara’s competence.
The high court also said the defense, dissatisfied with the results of a court-commissioned psychiatric exam of Asahara, deliberately failed to present its statement for the appeal before the August 2005 deadline.
This decision prompted the defense team to file an objection on March 30.
In the objection, they insisted the high court was wrong in claiming Asahara, who is virtually blind and babbles incoherently in his cell, is not suffering a psychological disorder.
The high court dismissed the objection May 29. It said Asahara has shown symptoms of a mental disorder that is a reaction to having been incarcerated for more than a decade since his May 1995 arrest, but the dismissal of the appeal was unavoidable because the defense missed the deadline.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to hang for his role in 13 criminal cases, including another deadly sarin attack in 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
The subway gas attack claimed 12 lives and left more than 5,500 people injured. In the Matsumoto attack, seven people were killed and some 660 others were left ill.