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Learning English - Words in the News
20 February, 2006 - Published 16:07 GMT
Japan Cult Boss can face trial
Shoko Asahara
Artist's drawing of former cult leader in court in 2004

Japanese media reports say that the former cult leader, Shoko Asahara, has now been judged mentally fit to continue with his court appeal. He was sentenced to death over poisonous gas attacks on the Tokyo subway and is appealing against the sentence. This report has been read for us by John Escolme:

Listen to the story

Shoko Asahara, the former head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, was found guilty of organising the sarin attacks in 1995 in which twelve people died. He was sentenced to death by a Japanese court in February 2004.

Asahara's lawyers had asked that the case against him should be suspended until his condition improved. But now a court-appointed psychiatrist has ruled that the case can be reviewed by the Tokyo High Court, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo and broadcaster NHK.

The gas attack on Tokyo's subway shocked Japan and shed light on the fanatical Aum Shinrikyo group. As leader of the group, Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death after being found guilty of thirteen charges of murder and attempted murder. He was also convicted of other offences, including plotting a gas attack in 1994 in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto that killed seven people.

During his first trial, which took eight years, Asahara mumbled incoherently and made unexplained gestures. After the verdict, his lawyers claimed he had a brain disorder or mental stress caused by confinement, and called for the court to suspend the appeals trial until his condition improved. The appeal hearing can now go ahead.

Eleven other Aum members have received death sentences, though none have been executed, pending appeals.

Listen to the words

the name of a poisonous gas

suspended until his condition improved
stopped for a while until he was better

a doctor who treats people with mental illnesses

a train system that runs underground

shed light on
made it easier to understand

extreme and dangerous

mumbled incoherently
spoke quietly and unclearly in a way that people could not understand

movements of the body, usually the hands or the head, to show what you mean


put to death

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