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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Japan Aum leader appeal rejected
Shoko Asahara (AP photo)
Shoko Asahara was sentenced to death in February 2004
The cult leader behind a fatal gas attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 has had an appeal against his death sentence rejected by a court in Japan.

The court said Shoko Asahara's lawyers failed to present their case by the legal deadline and rejected claims he was mentally unfit to appear in court.

Psychiatric tests last month found Asahara was fit to continue his appeal.

The case will now go to the Supreme Court. If it rejects the appeal, Asahara will be executed by hanging.

Asahara, the former head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, was found guilty of organising the sarin gas attacks in 1995 in which 12 people died and about 5,500 were injured.

He was sentenced to death by a Japanese court in February 2004.

1955 - Born in Yatsushiro, real name Chizuo Matsumoto
1987 - Starts Aum Shinrikyo
1994 - First sarin attack
1995 - Tokyo subway attack
1996 - Goes on trial
2004 - Trial ends

The 50-year-old was also found guilty of other charges including plotting a 1994 gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto that killed seven people.

During his first trial, which took eight years, Asahara mumbled incoherently and made unexplained gestures.

After the verdict, his lawyers claimed he had a brain disorder or mental stress caused by confinement, and called for the court to suspend the appeals trial until his condition improved.

Eleven other Aum members have received death sentences, though none have been executed, pending appeals.

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