The Tokyo High Court on Monday rejected an appeal filed by the defense counsel of AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, who faces with 13 charges including murder, increasing the likelihood that his death sentence will stand without an appeal court hearing.
Citing the reasons behind its decision, Presiding Judge Masaru Suda said that the defense had failed to present their case for an appeal before the court-mandated deadline and that there is ''no doubt'' the defendant is mentally fit to stand trial, despite the defense team's claim to the contrary.
In response, the defense team said, ''We will immediately take steps to file a protest and at the same time do whatever necessary to challenge this outrageous act.''
The defense can still take some actions in response to the high court's decision, including making a special appeal to the Supreme Court, but legal experts say the chances of success are low.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004 for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500 others.