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GURU FIRES LAWYER ON EVE OF TRIAL, CAUSING DELAY

SHARE GURU FIRES LAWYER ON EVE OF TRIAL, CAUSING DELAY

In the latest twist in Japan's doomsday-cult drama, guru Shoko Asahara fired his lawyer Wednesday on the eve of his murder trial, forcing a delay.

Court officials said no reason for the firing of Shoji Yokoyama was given in documents delivered to them just before the end of the business day.Yokoyama was injured in a traffic accident this week while riding in a car driven by a cult member, but the trial was to have gone on in spite of that.

Asahara is charged with masterminding the March 20 attack, which spread deadly sarin gas through packed subway cars at the height of the morning rush hour. The attack killed 12 people and sickened 5,500.

Prosecutors have told the court that Asahara and other cult leaders plotted the gas attack to cause chaos that would head off police action against the group.

A second lawyer, Kenji Nosaki, was retained earlier Wednesday, but he quit after Yokoyama was fired.

Japanese law does not allow a trial to begin if a defendant has no lawyer.

Court officials said the trial could begin as early as Nov. 2 - when the second session was scheduled. But they acknowledged it was unlikely a new lawyer could be ready by then.