Some charges dropped against doomsday cult guru

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The Independent Online

Some of the 17 criminal charges against the founder of the domesday cult that killed 12 people and injured thousands in a 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, are to be dropped by prosecutors in a bid to shorten his trial.

Some of the 17 criminal charges against the founder of the domesday cult that killed 12 people and injured thousands in a 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, are to be dropped by prosecutors in a bid to shorten his trial.

The case of guru Shoko Asahara, accused of masterminding the subway attack and 16 other crimes, has dragged on for four and half years, with court proceedings taking place on only 12 of the cases.

The Tokyo District Prosecutors' Office plans to drop the other four criminal charges, which involved illegal drug production but no casualties, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

Prosecutors believe that would have little effect on the final ruling and could reduce the trial time by several months, the report said.

The Kyodo News agency said that prosecutors plan to notify the court about its decision as early as next week. The prosecutors and the Tokyo District Court refused to confirm the news reports.

In Japan, trials are notoriously lengthy, in part because of a shortage of judges and lawyers. From the beginning, experts have warned that Asahara's trial could take up to a decade at the district court level alone, followed by another 10 years of appeals.

Since Asahara's trial began in April 1996, the court has held nearly 170 public hearings in the subway gassing and the 11 other crimes, including the murder of an anti-cult lawyer and his family and another nerve gas attack in central Japan in 1994.

Several top cultists have been sentenced to death in the 1995 subway gassing and in other crimes.

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