Top court firm: Condemned cultists to appear

Kyodo

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Tokyo prosecutors against a district court’s decision to summon three condemned prisoners to testify in the trial of a former Aum Shinrikyo fugitive, court officials said.

The top court called the appeal illegitimate, saying the prosecutors are not in a position to appeal the Tokyo District Court’s decision, the officials said Wednesday.

The defense team for 48-year-old Makoto Hirata has summoned the inmates. Seeking the testimony of a death row inmate as a witness is rare.

The prosecutors, citing security concerns, had demanded that the questioning be held at the Tokyo Detention House, where Yoshihiro Inoue, 43, Tomomasa Nakagawa, 50, and Yasuo Koike, 55, are being held.

The district court may decide to set up a screen in front of the public gallery or use video equipment linking the courtroom to a separate room where the inmates would be questioned.

Hirata is accused of involvement in the abduction and unlawful confinement of Tokyo notary Kiyoshi Kariya in 1995 in conspiracy with Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 58. According to cultists’ testimony, Kariya died after being injected with a chemical substance by Aum members.