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Aum/Aleph

Asahara appeal fate tied to coming exam results
("Japan Times," December 15, 2005)

Tokyo, Japan - The outcome of psychiatric examinations on Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara is expected to come out next February or later, Tokyo High Court sources said Thursday.

Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has been sentenced to hang for masterminding and ordering the cult's heinous crimes, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subways.

According to the sources, a psychiatrist conducting a mental check on Asahara told the high court it is difficult to compile a report by the end of January due to scheduling problems.

This has been conveyed to both prosecutors and Asahara's defense team, they said.

The three-judge high court panel will look into the examinations and decide if Asahara is competent to stand trial for appeal, they said.

Legal experts said if the high court decides Asahara is competent, the court may turn down the appeal by the defense team without holding any sessions because no document stating reasons for the appeal was filed by the Aug. 31 deadline.

The Code of Criminal Procedure requires a high court to reject an appeal if such a statement has not been submitted by the deadline.

No hearing has been held at the high court since the Tokyo District Court sentenced Asahara to hang in February 2004.

The high court decided in August to conduct the psychiatric exams and interviewed the psychiatrist in early September without the presence of the defense team despite its request for attendance.