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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Asahara lawyers relent, prepare to file appeal docs


Staff writer

Lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara, sentenced to death two years ago, said Friday they will file next week with their reasons for appealing his sentence.

Asahara's counsel did not file the paperwork by the Tokyo High Court's August deadline, saying they could not because the guru was so mentally ill they could not communicate with him sufficiently to write the document.

They had said the cult leader, who faces the gallows for several murders, including ordering the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, was unfit to stand trial and have asked for proceedings to be stopped until he received psychiatric help.

However, the team has changed its tactics since a court-appointed psychiatrist said Asahara is of sound mind and able to communicate.

Although they submitted a rebuttal to the psychiatric evaluation with diagnoses by six psychiatrists and other experts, the court report has increased the chances that the Tokyo High Court will reject the appeal, the defense lawyers said.

"The report sets a dangerous precedent. Anyone can grunt and 'communicate,' but it doesn't mean the person understands what's going on in court," lawyer Takeshi Matsui said. "However, (public) sentiment remains against us."

Since his arrest 11 years ago, Asahara's behavior has become increasing erratic.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, shows no sign he recognizes his daughters or lawyers, the rebuttal to the court's psychiatric evaluation says. He must wear diapers, has lost weight, and grunts, babbles and touches his genitals in meetings with lawyers and psychiatrists, it says.



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The Japan Times

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