Asahara attempts to pull the nasty over shrinks

Mainichi Daily News, Japan/March 11, 2006
By Ryann Connell

Death cult guru Shoko Asahara is merely trying to pull the wool over authorities' eyes to avoid the death sentence against him from being carried out, psychiatrists claimed in a report filed to the Tokyo High Court last month to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. Friday (3/17), however, says what the swami's actually pulling is something entirely different.

Akira Nishiyama headed the team of shrinks who examined the former cult leader, who ordered his AUM Shinrikyo believers unleash toxic sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 and injuring thousands more. He said in the Nishiyama Report that Asahara was "pretending to be senile," but capable of standing trial. The deadly guru has remained silent throughout his court proceedings in recent years, as well as in his solitary confinement cell, the common place of incarceration for death row prisoners like Asahara.

Media outlets across Japan quickly reported how Asahara had been deemed competent, but failed, the weekly notes, to pick up on some episodes recounted in the Nishiyama file about Asahara's behavior in his solitary confinement cell. It's these incidents, according to the weekly, that Asahara showed he was pulling more than other people's legs.

"He took off his trousers and diapers, exposed his genitalia and masturbated. He repeated the same action frequently. Whenever he acts like that, he drops his trousers, his diaper and diaper cover to his knees, finishes the act, then raises his trousers up to his waist again," Friday quotes the Nishiyama Report as saying.

The weekly goes on to note that Asahara does not restrain his self-ministrations to times when he's alone in his cell at the Tokyo Detention Center.

"In April 2005, just before the accused's lawyer entered a visiting room, the accused exposed his penis and began masturbating, continuing until he had finished while the lawyer stood before him the entire time. He has repeated this act of masturbation in the visiting room, as well as in his solitary confinement cell since being placed under observation in May. He also performed the act in front of his daughters when they came to visit him in August of the same year," the Nishiyama Report says.

Despite acknowledging acts such as the shameless masturbation in front of his adult daughters, the Nishiyama Report ruled that Asahara had not lost his faculties to the extent that it should stop him from going into court.

However, Otohiko Kaga, a former Tokyo Detention Center psychiatrist and now novelist, has slammed the Nishiyama Report after visiting Asahara at the behest of the swami's lawyers a couple of days after the document had been publicly released.

"As far as the false dementia goes, he understands language and can communicate verbally. False dementia really only should be used when there is absolutely no verbal communication evident. The thing I thought weirdest about the Nishiyama Report was that it didn't mention a single thing about what kind of person Asahara is, nor anything about his character. They knew without doubt that he was susceptible to going stir crazy. I really get the impression they were looking to get a result out quickly," Kaga tells Friday.

Kaga says that the current, shaven-headed Asahara bears little resemblance to the hirsute guru arrested over a decade ago.

"I told him that a religious figure such as himself couldn't possibly be considering leaving this world without leaving a message behind for his followers, but he didn't react in the slightest. He just sat down with his legs crossed and stared upward, shifting his gaze from left to right. He giggled twice, but on neither occasion did it have anything to do with what I'd been saying," Kaga says.

Kaga goes on to say that while talking to Asahara, he suddenly gave a loud clap that reverberated around the visiting room, scaring the wits out of those close by and eliciting some sort of reaction from all who heard it -- except Asahara. Kaga says Asahara appears to be in a catatonic stupor, a condition one step away from coma.

"It's impossible for him to continue with his trial," Kaga tells Friday. "One of my catatonic stupor patients always throws up whatever they eat. Sometimes, their vomit is unleashed so violently it hits the ceiling. They unconsciously carry out acts that make others feel unpleasant. It's the same with Asahara brazenly masturbating in front of people, but it can be cured. They did it once at the Osaka Detention Center. They made all the death row prisoners take meals together, and wiped out stir craziness pretty quickly. They need to change his circumstances, his environment, even just a little. I really think they should stop his trial temporarily and concentrate on his treatment."

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