Psychiatrist Says AUM Founder Asahara Unfit for Trial

Kyodo News Service/January 6, 2006

Tokyo -- Shoko Asahara, founder of the religious cult formerly known as AUM Shinrikyo who is appealing a death sentence, is in a confused state of mind that renders him unable to follow court proceedings and needs medical treatment, a defense psychiatrist who visited him Friday said.

"He moved his eyebrows and made other movements when I spoke to him, but they were not responses based on understanding my words," Masaaki Noda, a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, told Kyodo News.

Noda is the fourth psychiatrist appointed by the defense to meet with the 50-year-old who has been sentenced to death for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack and other crimes.

"He is living in a different world. It is impossible for him to comprehend a court trial and the hearings should proceed after he gets treatment," Noda said after meeting Asahara for 30 minutes with permission from the Tokyo High Court.

Noda added that treatment could be completed in a few months and that he believes Asahara's condition will improve.

The high court has also hired psychiatrists to evaluate Asahara's mental state, and the results are not expected until Feburary at the earliest.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 27, 2004, for his role in 13 crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack.

His defense has appealed the ruling and requested the Tokyo High Court to suspend his trial, claiming he suffers from mental disorders. But the defense did not submit the document stating reasons for the appeal by the Aug. 31 deadline last year.

As a result, judicial experts said that if the high court decides Asahara is competent to stand trial, the court may turn down the appeal without holding any hearings due to the lack of a statement as required by the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Tokyo High Court sources said last month that the outcome of psychiatric examinations commissioned by the court is expected to be known in February or later.

AUM Shinrikyo has renamed itself Aleph.

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