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Slow-Moving Japanese Trials

May 24, 1998

Some high-profile trials often cited as examples of Japanese courts’ slowness:

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TOKYO NERVE GAS ATTACK: More than three years after dozen people killed by nerve gas in Tokyo subway, trial of doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara shows no sign of concluding. Experts say final verdict on Asahara, who allegedly masterminded attack, could take 20 years if appeals go to Supreme Court.

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LOCKHEED BRIBERY: Former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka convicted of taking bribes from Lockheed Corp. in 1981. Was never jailed, however, because he died while verdict was under appeal _ 17 years after arrest.

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MENDA MURDER: After 34 years on death row, Sakae Menda was retried and acquitted of faith healer’s 1949 murder. He had been convicted by all three court levels, up to Supreme Court, before district court ruled _ after six retrial requests _ that his confession had been coerced.

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MINAMATA MERCURY POISONING: Thousands of victims of mercury poisoning from industrial waste in Minamata Bay 1932-68 dropped 16-year-old damage suit in 1996 in favor of out-of-court settlement. Dozens of claimants already had died.

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