Asahara’s counsel to boycott court

The defense counsel for Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara will boycott a court session Mar. 14 to protest the Tokyo District Court’s decision to maintain a four-sessions-a-month schedule.

“We cannot attend four sessions in a month because the pace is far beyond our capacity,” defense team chief Osamu Watanabe said Mar. 12. “We are totally exhausted both physically and mentally.”

Earlier in the day, the team of lawyers submitted a notice to the court that they would not attend the Mar. 14 session. The lawyers have asked the court to reduce the frequency of the sessions, claiming that the pace is too fast for the defense to properly prepare. But the court has rejected the request and scheduled four sessions per month through July.

Last week, the lawyers submitted a letter of resignation to the court, but since the defense team is court-appointed, its resignation notice is effectively a request to be relieved of responsibilities. They said the court turned down the request and they will attend three other sessions this month, including the one today.

The lawyers criticized the court by saying it has been focusing only on expeditiousness while ignoring fairness. They declined to comment on whether Asahara has been informed of their boycott plans.