Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara’s chief defense attorney pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of obstructing the seizure of rental income used by a “jusen” housing-loan borrower as collateral, and criticized police for his “unlawful” arrest.

Prosecutors allege lawyer Yoshihiro Yasuda, 51, conspired with Sun Chungli, the president of realtor Sun’s Corp. Tokyo, and Sun’s son to hide rental income from two buildings in Tokyo’s Minato Ward that was put up as collateral. “I am innocent,” Yasuda said in the opening hearing of his Tokyo District Court trial. “I never did the things stated in the indictment.”

Prosecutors said Yasuda, Sun and his son hid about 200 million yen in rental income by directing tenants of the two buildings to pay their rent to the property management firm Wide Treasure, which was a dummy company affiliated with Sun’s, between 1993 and 1996. Yasuda’s counsel maintains that their client only advised the Sun side on measures that would enable Sun’s firm to stay solvent, and that he did nothing to obstruct the asset seizure.

The Dec. 6 arrest and indictment of Yasuda, who has been an active opponent to capital punishment, spurred sharp criticism of investigative authorities by lawyers and death penalty foes. A record 766 lawyers, including Koken Tsuchiya, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have formed the defense counsel for Yasuda.

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