Aum leader 'understood ruling'

The Yomiuri Shimbun/September 10, 2006

Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult currently on death row, showed signs indicating he was mentally capable of understanding trial procedures when he was told in March that the Tokyo High Court was dismissing his appeal, sources close to the issue said Saturday.

Matsumoto sat up straight when a detention house official told him of the high court's decision, and remarked, "I'm innocent," some days later, the sources said.

His lawyers have insisted Matsumoto lacked the capacity to understand his situation in the trial, and have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Matsumoto's reactions in March indicate he could understand the meaning of the court's decision and that its judgment about his mental capacity to stand trial was correct.

According to the sources, a copy of the high court's decision was sent on March 27 to the Tokyo Detention House where Matsumoto was being detained.

He was lying on the floor of his cell when the official told him that the document had arrived. Matsumoto then sat up straight.

When the official read out the main part of the decision that said his appeal was dismissed, Matsumoto began murmuring to himself. Some days later, he remarked: "I'm innocent. I was trapped."

The sources said the reactions show Matsumoto, 51, understood the meaning of the high court's decision.

The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that a trial should be suspended if the defendant is proven to lack the mental capacity to stand trial. Matsumoto's lawyers in the trial insisted they could not communicate with him as he lacked this capacity.

The lawyers demanded the trial be suspended but did not submit a statement of reason for the appeal by the designated deadline.

The Tokyo High Court conducted a psychiatric examination on Matsumoto and concluded he was fit to stand trial.

In March, the high court decided to dismiss the appeal because the statement of the reason for appeal was never submitted.

Though the lawyers objected against the decision, the high court turned down the objection. The lawyers then made a special appeal to the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court turns down the special appeal, Matsumoto's death sentence will be finalized.

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