This comes as no surprise, given the Olympics. --MW ________________________________________________________________________ Japan to speed up trial of subway bombing suspect ____________________________________________________________________________ Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Reuters TOKYO (December 2, 1997 06:41 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Japanese prosecutors said Tuesday they would take the rare step of speeding up the snail-paced murder trials of the doomsday cult guru accused of masterminding the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing. Shoko Asahara, leader of Aum Shinri Kyo (Aum Supreme Truth Sect), stands accused of the March 20, 1995, gas attack, which killed 12 people and made thousands ill. "The prolongation of Asahara's trials would sharply amplify public distrust in Japan's criminal justice," deputy chief prosecutor Kunihiro Matsuo told a news conference. "This is also an extremely serious issue in terms of maintaining order. The prosecutors office said it would drastically reduce the number of people listed in the indictments as "injured" in the two separate gas attacks so that they could shorten court proceedings. The number of victims on whom prosecutors would need to present evidence and examine as witnesses would be slashed to 18 from 3,938. It said that the step was extremely rare. Asahara, 42, also faces 16 other charges, including the masterminding of a separate nerve gas attack in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and hurt 144. More than 120 of Asahara's followers, including his wife, his personal physician and close aides, have also been indicted for the subway attack and on other criminal charges. Matsuo said the measures announced Tuesday would help cut the length of the trial by up to eight years. Unless the step was taken, prosecutors would need about 25 more years to fully prove Asahara guilty, he said. "Society demands that the trials proceed properly and speedily and verdicts be handed down early, he said. The Tokyo court holds four hearings each month on Asahara's trial, but Matsuo said that was not enough. "With only four hearings a month, the pace of the trials will drastically slow down. We need six to eight," he said. Asahara, whose given name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has not entered a plea and the trial has often been marred by his outbursts against the judges, prosecutors, witnesses and even his own lawyers. If he is found guilty on the murder charges, he faces a mandatory death sentence by hanging.
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