October 25, 1995
Web posted at: 2:50 p.m. EDT (1850 GMT)
From Correspondent May Lee and wire reports
TOKYO (CNN) -- The trial of doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara, accused of masterminding a deadly gas attack, is on hold, possibly until next year. Asahara, leader of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth), fired his attorney on Wednesday, one day before the trial was to begin. No reason was given, but Asahara's critics called it a delaying action.
The development comes one day after the start of a related trial. Asahara's doctor, Tomomasa Nakagawa, is the first person to face charges directly connected to the March 20 subway gassing, which killed 11 people and sickened more than 4,000.
Interest in Nakagawa's case Tuesday drew more than 4,100 people hoping for a chance at just 56 courtroom seats. In their opening statement, prosecutors said Nakagawa was one of several Aum members ordered by cult leader Asahara to produce the deadly nerve gas sarin and then use it to carry out mass murder on the Tokyo subway. Those orders, prosecutors said, make Asahara the chief conspirator in the case. They said Asahara ordered the attack as a pre-emptive strike to head off expected police raids on his cult.
Asahara's trial now is scheduled for November 2, but legal experts said it is highly unlikely that another attorney can be found in time. A new attorney would need weeks to become familiar with the case, they said.
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