Asahara trial reaches 200th hearing, but verdict not in sight

Mainichi Shimbun/June 22, 2001

The 200th hearing in the trial of doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara began in Tokyo on Friday, but a decision on the fate of the savage swami could still be years to come, lawyers say.

A total of 77 people lined up for the 52 public seats in the Tokyo District Court on Friday, forcing lots to be drawn for the places for the first time since last September.

Prosecutors have entered the final stages of their presentation of evidence against the accused mass murderer, and the defense is set to reply. But lawyers say it could still be several years before a decision on the case is reached.

The court has been holding hearings on the case since April 1996. Hearings are proceeding at the rate of about three or four a month, each one lasting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. But Asahara has continually failed to cooperate in the hearings, mumbling to himself in an inaudible voice and often dozing off in the trials.

He has often been warned by Presiding Judge Fumihiro Abe during the hearings, and has not been talking with his court-appointed lawyers, leaving them fumbling about to present a testimony on behalf of the guru. Asahara is accused of masterminding AUM's deadly 1995 gas attacks on Tokyo subways that killed 12 and caused thousands more to fall ill.

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