Photo/IllutrationThe Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Tokyo Detention House flouted a court ruling allowing an ex-Aum Shinrikyo cultist on death row to consult with his lawyer without guards eavesdropping.

Yasuo Hayashi, 60, held a senior position in the cult that carried out sarin nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 that left 13 people dead and one in Nagano Prefecture the year before that claimed eight lives.

Even though the Supreme Court has finalized his death sentence, which is by hanging, Hayashi is seeking a retrial. He has demanded that officers of the Tokyo Detention House, where he was being held until recently, abide by a Tokyo District Court ruling permitting him to consult privately with his lawyer, Hideyasu Yoshida, about his case.

Yoshida and Hayashi filed a lawsuit against the state for breaching their right to privacy during such consultations and is seeking 13.2 million yen ($119,000) in compensation for psychological distress caused by the monitoring.

The hearing was scheduled to conclude May 23.

What are known as "himitsu kotsu ken" secret communication rights under the Criminal Procedure Law guarantee prisoners and others in custody to discuss details of their cases with their lawyers in private.

The Supreme Court finalized Hayashi's death sentence in March 2008. In December of that year, Hayashi filed for a retrial at the Tokyo District Court.

In April 2014, he filed a lawsuit with the same court, demanding to be allowed to meet with this lawyer to discuss the retrial without guards monitoring the conversation.

The Supreme Court, in a separate case in December 2013, said it is “unlawful to refuse meetings in secrecy unless there are special circumstances.” The ruling concerned another death row inmate unrelated to the Aum Shinrikyo crimes seeking similar consultations with his lawyer in private.

In December 2016, the Tokyo District Court followed the 2013 precedent set by the top court, ruling that Hayashi and Yoshida could meet without guards being present.

Even after Yoshida conveyed the court’s decision to the Tokyo Detention House, the facility continued to deny the pair privacy during meetings.

After the ruling, correction officers attended six meetings held through April 2017.

In the hearings that were to wind up May 23, the government claimed that “the detention house had never received a court decision similar to the ruling handed down, and did not know it took immediate effect.”

It requested a dismissal of the case on grounds that officers of the Tokyo Detention House “had not caused such a level of distress as to warrant monetary compensation.”

Yoshida told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview that he found it “absolutely shocking that an administrative body had defied a judicial decision.”

He added that, “If such conduct is accepted, the principle of the separation of the three powers (of administration, legislation, and judicature) becomes invalid.”

In March 2018, the Justice Ministry transferred seven of the 13 Aum Shinrikyo death row inmates incarcerated at the Tokyo Detention House to other detention facilities around Japan, apparently to prepare for their executions.

Hayashi was moved to the Sendai Detention House and he is currently permitted to see Yoshida without correction officers monitoring conversations.

Tomomasa Nakagawa, another Aum Shinrikyo inmate on death row for his involvement in the production of sarin gas and other deadly chemicals used by the cult, will file a complaint that corrections officers at the Hiroshima Detention House that he was transferred to in March are monitoring meetings between him and his lawyer despite requesting privacy.