Asahara 'plays baseball' in Tokyo detention house

Mainichi Shimbun, Japan/December 4, 2004

AUM Shirikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, confined at Tokyo Detention House awaiting an appeal trial, mysteriously mimicked a baseball pitcher during an exercise session, an official letter shows, although his lawyers doubt the assertion.

Lawyers for Asahara have asked the Tokyo High Court to suspend his appeal case because they believed he is unable to stand trial.

They added that he hasn't been answering any questions put by them or his relatives.

After filing the suspension request, the lawyers said they received a letter in the name of the detention house head, describing the behavior of Asahara, 49, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

"I am a champion pitcher in the national high school baseball tourney at Koshien Stadium," the letter quoted Asahara as saying during an exercise session in October, mimicking a pitcher's throw, according to the lawyers.

The letter also cited several quirky declarations."I will be released," he murmured in July 1997, according to the letter.

But his lawyers said they were skeptical. "We don't think these are expressions of anything meaningful," one of the lawyers said on Friday.

The letter also said detention workers had to physically support Asahara during exercises. Therefore, they said in such a situation he was unlikely to have imitated a pitcher's throw.

Asahara reportedly has voiced no meaningful words during hearings since pleading not guilty to charges against him in January 1998.

AUM Shinrikyo now calls itself Aleph.

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