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Trial opens in Tokyo subway gas attacks

Asahara sketch

Defiant Japanese cult leader won't enter plea

April 24, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT)

TOKYO (CNN) -- Doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara, saying he has no regard for his life, refused to enter a plea Wednesday on the first day of his murder trial for last year's Tokyo subway gas attacks.

Asahara, leader of Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth Sect), is accused of masterminding gas attacks on five Tokyo subway trains which killed 11 people and harmed about 5,500.

Ten of his disciples have been accused of releasing sarin nerve gas on the trains during morning rush hour on March 20 last year.



Asahra

"I have no concerns for my life. I have nothing else to say."

-- Shoko Asahara


lady

"I want to crucify him in the park and let everyone jab him to death"

-- Woman outside court


"I couldn't stand his shameless attitude in court," a weeping Tomoko Hirada told reporters after the court session. "I was really furious."

crowds

The 24-year-old Okinawa resident said she was still suffering from a serious eye problem following the subway attack. Shizue Takahashi, whose husband died in the attacks, described Asahara as a "filthy worm" during the noon recess.

Uncooperative attitude

Asahara, 41, was nearly 70 pounds (30 kilograms) thinner than when he was arrested last May, but still sports a long beard and his trademark long hair, which he ties back. He refused to use his given name, Chizuo Matsumoto, saying he had "abandoned" it.

Chief Judge Fumihiro Abe rejected a defense request to allow Asahara to wear the cult's traditional pajama-like tunic, saying it could put "psychological pressure" on Aum witnesses.

Six hours later, at the climax of the day's proceedings, Asahara declined to plead either guilty or not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and illegal drug production.

court

"I have no concern for the fact that I have been denied liberty or that I have been placed under pain. I have no concerns for my life. I have nothing else to say," Asahara replied when asked for his plea.

When Abe asked again for his plea, Asahara replied: "I have nothing else to say." Abe and three other judges will determine Asahara's guilt or innocence and decide his sentence. Japan does not have a jury system, and it is not mandatory for defendants to enter a plea.

Asahara is due to return to court Thursday, but after that there was to be a month-long break. The trial could take years, with most sessions separated by weeks or months.

Correspondent May Lee, Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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