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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009

Aum victim distressed by call to lay judge duty


Staff writer

A lay judge candidate who was a victim of the 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo is urging the judicial system to give candidates an opportunity to serve at a different courthouse if they have traumatic memories associated with a certain court.

Hiromi Aiba, 43, was summoned Tuesday to serve as a lay judge at the Tokyo District Court.

She was one of the thousands of people injured in the March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. Twelve people were killed.

The Tokyo District Court is located near Kasumigaseki Station, where many people were injured in the nerve gas attack. Cult guru Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the atrocity, was sentenced to death there.

Aiba was not chosen Tuesday as a lay judge or as an alternate for the trial of a 35-year-old Chinese man charged with overstaying his visa and committing a robbery resulting in injury. She was released from service by noon.

"I felt relieved, but I had mixed feelings because I also wanted to participate in this new system," Aiba said at a news conference.

A resident of Itabashi Ward, Aiba said it was the first time she had ever been in the district court. She said she had to use a JR line and a bus to get there because taking the subway to Kasumigaseki would have been too traumatic.

A law stipulates that lay judge candidates can ask to be excused from serving on a trial if it might "affect their physical or mental conditions."

She was reluctant to come to Kasumigaseki but had no choice, she said, because ignoring the summons can draw a fine.

It would have been much easier if she had been called to a different court, she said.

"There must be others who want to serve as a lay judge but don't want to have access to a particular court that gives them bad memories, like fighting out a divorce, accidents or other matters," she said.

"I believe that if people take part in trials, it will allow them to know details of the case that don't show up in news reports," Aiba said. "I felt that I wanted to serve. But not in this court."



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