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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 05:50 GMT
Japan cult boss 'can face trial'
Shoko Asahara (AP photo)
Asahara's lawyers claimed he was unfit for the appeal hearing
A former cult leader sentenced to death over gas attacks on the Tokyo subway has been judged mentally fit to continue his appeal, media reports say.

Shoko Asahara, the former head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, was found guilty of organising the sarin attacks in 1995 in which 12 people died.

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

Asahara's lawyers had asked that the case against him should be suspended until his condition improved.

But now a court-appointed psychiatrist has ruled that the case can be reviewed by the Tokyo High Court, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo and broadcaster NHK.

Fanatical cult

The gas attack on Tokyo's subway shocked Japan and shed light on the fanatical Aum Shinrikyo group.

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

As leader of the group, Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death after being found guilty of 13 charges of murder and attempted murder.

He was also convicted of other offences, 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.

Monday's news means that the appeal hearing can now go ahead.

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

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14 May 03 |  Asia-Pacific

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