Three Aum Shinrikyo members on death row are to be questioned in open court in the trial of Makoto Hirata, who is accused of helping to kidnap a notary public who was later killed by the doomsday cult, the Tokyo District Court announced.
The questioning of death-row inmates as witnesses is extremely rare, and it will be the first instance in a lay judge trial, the court said Monday.
The three slated to testify are Yoshihiro Inoue, 43, Tomomasa Nakagawa, 50, and Yasuo Koike, 55, all key Aum figures.
Prosecutors had requested that they be questioned at the Tokyo Detention House where they are waiting to be sent to the gallows, citing security reasons and the potential psychological impact on them.
Presiding Judge Hiroaki Saito rejected the request, however, saying “no need for such measures can be recognized at this time.”
Hirata, 48, is accused of involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya, who was believed killed.
Hirata turned himself in on Dec. 31, 2011, after 17 years on the lam. A disbelieving officer at Tokyo police headquarters at first turned him away.