Justice Delayed


The prosecution recently announced their decision to try the founder and leader of Aum Sinrikyo, Shoukou Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, on charges of planning to illegally manufacture automatic guns.
I cannot understand their decision on this matter nor do I support it.
Asahara has been indicted for 17 cases including 11 murders and attempted murders, for instance, for attacking Tokyo Subway System with lethal sarin gas, releasing the same gas in a residential neighborhood in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture, as well as killing an anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and their 1-year-old son.
Asahara has denied all of the above charges except for one attempted murder with lethal VX chemicals.
Even though the material witnesses for those 11 felonies have testified his responsibilities in Tokyo District Court.
With such strong testimony, the prosecutors have enough evidence to demand death penalty on just the two sarin-cases.
In fact, the precedents which has been set that the defendants who killed more than three people have little or no chance of evading capital punishment.
Furthermore a few of his disciples who carried out the above acts of crimes have already received the death penalty.
So, naturally, the people, especially the victims and their families demanded a quick end to Asahara's trial.
I too thought that the prosecution would withdraw the other 6 charges of illegally making LSD, mescaline, amphetamine, anesthetic; building a sarin-producing plant; and producing illegal firearms, all of which would have little influence on the final punishment to Asahara.
However, after the prosecutors' recent decision there is no telling it will be finished.
The legal experts say it might take 10 or 15 years more before the final judgment of the Supreme Court.
The charge which prosecutors will try to prove is the plan that Aum tried to manufacture 1,000 automatic guns to use when carrying out their planned coup d'etat.
But evidence gathered during the trial of Aum members who were involved in the plan clearly showed that what they had made in large quantity were poor in quality and useless.
They managed to assemble a gun not worthy of being called "automatic" one, which required disassembling of the gun in order to load bullet.
Furthermore they had tried to copy a Russian AK74 automatic gun, but as they had failed to measure the caliber exactly, the Russian AK74 bullets were rendered useless.
Bullets for Aum's gun have not been made yet.
So, needless to say, the "gun" made by Aum would have been useless at real fighting but prosecutors continue to want to emphasize the gun had the ability to be fired although.
The gun caused no actual damage with no victims.
Firstly, once the prosecution starts, it is certain that the charges will cause endless hours of needless examinations and cross-examinations of counselors, which will only help the defense counselors to further delay the proceeding.
In addition, proving into such charges will result inevitable charges into other facets of Aum's arming plans including construction of sarin-producing plant which under the Japanese Criminal Code, article 201―preliminaries to murder accounts to 2 year imprisonment at large―Two years!
So it is beyond my comprehension that the defendant who is expected to get death should be tried on charge of the crime which deserves two-year-imprisonment.
The prosecution says that this is necessary in order to solve whole arming plan.
Yet! We already know the almost whole plan from testimonies given by ex-members during their trials.
And those of us who have been following the Aum-related trials for 5 years expect that no new things will be disclosed in Asahara's trial.

Secondly, we should remember the decision the prosecution made at the end of 1997 when it withdrew the names of 3,920 victims who were injured in the two sarin cases from the charges aginst Asahara and his followers.
The victims got the letters from the chief of Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office asking for understanding that the decision was decided in order to quicken the proceeding.
As a matter of fact, I too was attacked by Aum with another chemical weapon named Phosgen during the night of September in 1994 just after I had reported that it was Asahara who had ordered his followers to kidnap a man of property in Miyazaki prefecture.
Not only did the members had confessed their roles during the investigation, but one of them ever testified in court that they had intended to kill me under orders of Asahara.
The victims, including myself, were forced to give up our rights to accuse those including Asahara who had attempted to kill us for the sake of swift and deserving justice.
While the followers have been or will be heavily punished, only the trial of the founder and leader of this religious cult and their atrocious crimes has been dragging on.
Is there anything else more unfair than that?
And the people are disgusted with this tedious trial.
The proverb says that Justice delayed is Justice denied.
The prosecution must reconsider their decision and make more efforts to finish the trial as quickly and properly as possible.

(written for the Asahi Sinbun of June 19)

Copyright 2006 © Shoko Egawa All Right Reserved.