FALSE PROPHET: THE AUM CULT OF TERROR
The trials involving the inner circle of the cult began in 1996. Asahara had previously been charged with 23 counts of murder. Surrounded in court by no less than 12 lawyers, he pleaded not guilty on all counts. The charges against many of the leaders including Joyu, Aoyama and Takeshi Matsumoto were listed as murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, manufacture of dangerous drugs and a score of lesser charges.
Other cult leaders, including Inoue, Hayakawa, Niimi, Tsuchiya and Endo, gave full confessions in an attempt to avoid the death penalty. Their fate has yet to be decided. The trial is likely to continue for the next 30 years, according to legal experts, as a battery of lawyers continues to argue against the charges and protest against the "violation of Aums religious freedom".