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Aum/Aleph

Court starts process for psychiatric exams of AUM founder Asahara
("Kyodo," September 12, 2005)

Tokyo, Japan - The Tokyo High Court said Monday that it initiated last week a process to begin conducting psychiatric examinations of AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara to determine whether he is competent to stand trial to appeal his death sentence.

The court interviewed a psychiatrist last week and the psychiatrist will conduct the psychiatric exam at the Tokyo Detention House and review the records of Asahara's trial, it said.

The examination of Asahara, 50, will take about two months, and the court will judge whether he is competent based on the results, according to the court.

Last week's questioning of the psychiatrist was held without the presence of the defense team despite its request for attendance.

In a normal trial, such questioning is conducted with the presence of the defense team, but the court decided not to allow Asahara's lawyers to attend.

The lawyers did not submit a document stating the reasons for Asahara's appeal against his death sentence by the Aug. 31 deadline partly to protest the court's decision.

If the high court concludes from the psychiatric exam that Asahara is competent, and the defense team still does not submit the document by the time the results are out, the court is highly likely to dismiss the appeal, finalizing the death sentence handed down in February last year.

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

AUM has renamed itself Aleph.