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Aum/Aleph

Court raps Asahara's lawyers over appeal document
("Kyodo," September 2, 2005)

Tokyo, Japan - The Tokyo High Court criticized AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara's defense lawyers Friday for failing to submit a document stating the reason for their appeal against his death sentence by the Wednesday deadline, and urged them to immediately submit it.

"The move is a neglect of (relevant) laws, and they infringed on the defendant's interests as they abandoned their responsibilities as defense lawyers," the court said.

The court conveyed its criticism to the defense team by telephone and fax.

The defense lawyers met with Presiding Judge Masaru Suda of the high court Wednesday over the appeal.

They brought a 50-page document outlining the reasons for the appeal, but did not submit it to Suda because they were forbidden to attend a psychiatric exam on Asahara, 50, by a psychiatrist to check whether he is competent to continue standing trial.

Asahara's lawyers said Wednesday the high court told them it will postpone any decision on the appeal until it obtains the results of the psychiatric exam and hears expert opinion.

The psychiatric exam is expected to take several months.

The court also said Friday it is highly likely that the court would not consider a delay as unavoidable stipulated under the criminal procedure law even if the defense team submits the document in the future.

If the high court concludes from the psychiatric exam that Asahara is competent and if the defense team does not submit the document by the time the result of the exam is known, the high court is highly likely to dismiss the appeal.

In that case, the death sentence handed down by the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 27 last year will become final.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the fatal sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

AUM has renamed itself Aleph.