In a barely intelligible statement, Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara said Friday he has already “been found not guilty” of the March 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack and the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.Asahara, 42, was given the opportunity to speak at his Tokyo District Court trial session as prosecutors presented in court revised indictments for the two sarin attacks. The court formally approved at the session the request by prosecutors to reduce the number of attempted murder victims in the indictments from 3,794 to 14 in the subway attack and from 144 to four in the Matsumoto gassing.Asahara is accused of masterminding the two gas attacks. Asked his opinions about the revised indictments, Asahara said “I am not guilty” in a very low and unclear voice. After his lawyers asked him to repeat what he said, Asahara said, “I mean, presiding Judge Fumihiro Abe found me not guilty on Nov. 15, 1996, and thus it is unusual that I have been kept in detention.”It was the first time Asahara has spoken in court since a hearing last April in which he was given the chance to state his opinions on all of the charges against him after two judges in the trial were replaced in a personnel reshuffle.On that occasion, he said in both Japanese and English that he had “already been found not guilty” in 16 of the 17 cases for which he is being tried. Prosecutors announced early last month they planned to reduce the number of officially recognized survivors of the two gas attacks in an effort to speed up the trial. They opted for the move after Asahara’s counsel refused to agree to adopt as evidence statements and medical records of the survivors of the subway attack, claiming the documents are insufficient evidence. The refusal meant prosecutors might have had to summon all 3,794 recognized survivors to testify. It would take more than 20 years to subpoena the victims and doctors who treated them at the current pace of the trial, the state said in deciding to trim the list of survivors.During Friday’s session, Asahara’s chief attorney, Osamu Watanabe, said he and the other court-appointed lawyers have no objection to the changes in the indictments because they consider the move the result of a re-examination by prosecutors of “faulty evidence.”
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