TOKYO, Nov. 29–(Kyodo) – Defense lawyers for AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara said Monday they have asked the Tokyo High Court to suspend his appeal case on the grounds that he is incompetent to stand trial.
The lawyers told a news conference they have met with Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, more than 30 times since July but he never gave any reaction when they spoke to him.
A psychiatrist, who met with Asahara at the lawyers’ request, has submitted his opinion to the court that the defendant may be suffering from a brain disorder or a legitimate mental disorder caused by his long detention, or that he may simply be pretending or observing silence as part of some sort of religious activity. The psychiatrist said Asahara should undergo a full mental competency evaluation.
Takeshi Matsui, one of the two lawyers for Asahara, said, “We have serious reservations about proceeding with the trial without having him tested for illness or giving him any medical treatment.”
Asahara was sentenced to death at the Tokyo District Court in February over 13 cases, including the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Asahara’s 12-member defense team, all state-appointed lawyers, immediately appealed to the Tokyo High Court as a matter of course, though Asahara himself has shown no willingness to appeal.
Despite this move, however, the lawyers refrained from actually defending Asahara in the appeal, and this was done by Matsui, who represented two daughters of Asahara.