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Friday, March 31, 2006

Asahara lawyers protest appeal snub


Staff writer

Lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara lodged a public protest Thursday over Tokyo High Court Judge Masaru Suda's decision to throw out their appeal of the guru's death sentence.

Asahara's lawyers have taken issue with the fact that the judge cited their failure to submit the grounds for appeal by an August deadline as the reason for the court's Monday dismissal and demanded it be invalidated.

The lawyers have said they could not do so because they were unable to communicate with their client, who they say only mumbles, stares off into space and is otherwise incoherent.

On Thursday, they told a news conference the court had informed them they had until the court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of Asahara was submitted to hand in the appeal documents, and thus the Monday dismissal went against the law.

The appeal dismissal increased the likelihood that Asahara's death sentence will stand without further trial. He was sentenced in February 2004 for masterminding the deadly 1995 nerve gassing of the Tokyo subway system and other murders.

The counsel later said Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was mentally incompetent to defend himself in court and demanded court proceedings be halted.

The rejection came after Suda and court-appointed psychiatrist Akira Nishiyama both declared Asahara mentally fit to stand trial when they visited him in detention.

Asahara's lawyers now want the appeal to move forward, although they also stand by their assertion that the trial should be halted.

If the high court invalidates the dismissal, Asahara's appellate trial will begin.



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