Supreme Court throws out appeal against testimony of Aum Shinrikyo members

The highest court in the land has upheld the decision by the Tokyo District Court, allowing three former Aum Shinrikyo cult members on death row to testify in open court. The Supreme Court rejected the complaint filed by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, seeking the three testify in a detention center instead of in a courtroom.

Presiding judge Kiyoko Okabe rejected the appeal of the prosecutors, who wanted the ex-members questioned in the Tokyo Detenion House to prevent any psychological effect on the three for being in open court. They are giving their testimony in the trial of Makoto Hirata, a former member of the cult who is believed to have served as the lookout during the kidnapping of the clerk in conspiracy with their founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. Two of the three death row inmates to be questioned were directly involved in the crime, while the third was convicted for a separate incident, but where Hirata was also indicted in.

The three will become the first death row inmates who will give their testimony in open court in a lay judge trial. The panel will consist of six citizen judges plus three professional ones. No trial date has been set yet by the Tokyo District Court.