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Fukushima : Ex-bosses stand trial over 2011 crisis in Japan

Fukushima : Ex-bosses stand trial over 2011 crisis in Japan

The trial is the first to consider criminal prosecution of officials responsible for the plant over alleged failures to take adequate safety measures, reports Efe news.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) on Friday pleaded not guilty to professional negligence leading to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, though an analyst said there is little chance they will be convicted.

Tsunehisa Katsumata, the 77-year-old ex-chairman of TEPCO, and two former vice presidents said they don't think they bear criminal responsibility, because they couldn't predict the enormous tsunami that flooded the plant.

The charges against the three are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalised patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.

The three former executives were indicted in February 2016 by lawyers who were appointed by the district court to act as prosecutors after a prosecution inquest panel comprising ordinary citizens twice overrode public prosecutors' decisions not to charge them.

The plant was hit by a powerful quake and tsunami in March 2011.

"I apologize for causing the serious accident", Katsumata said, before adding that "it was impossible to predict".

The current trial is expected to last more than a year, the Asahi newspaper said.

"Since the accident, nobody has been held responsible nor has it been made clear why it happened", Ruiko Muto, who heads the group that pushed for the trial, told AFP.

Mom Tased And Attacked In Front Of Children By Teenage Home Intruders
The name of the third teen has not been released, however that suspect has been identified as a 15-year-old female. An unidentified 15 year-old girl was also arrested and is accused of driving the two men to the apartment.

At least 150,000 people in Fukushima were forced from their homes at one point amid radiation fears and over 20,000 people are still subject to evacuation orders, while the country faces huge challenges in scrapping the crippled reactors.

"If they had fulfilled their responsibility to safety, the accident would have never occurred", the prosecutor said.

"As someone who knew nothing (about the risks of an accident), I'm now in my seventh year as an evacuee".

Lawyers acting as prosecutors said the three executives had access to data and studies anticipating the risk of a tsunami exceeding 10 metres height in the area that could trigger power loss and cause a nuclear accident, according to the pool report.

A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said a misguided faith in the safety of atomic power was a key factor in the accident, pointing to weaknesses in disaster preparedness and unclear responsibilities among regulators.

The prosecution started presenting more than 230 pieces of evidence including emails between safety officials and the two vice presidents suggesting increasing concern and the need to take additional tsunami measures at the Fukushima plant.

Though 18,500 people are believed to have been killed during the quake and tsunami, none of the deaths have been formally attributed by the government to the Fukushima meltdown.

Each apologized for the disaster and the trouble it caused. But in March 2011, tsunami around 14 and 15 meters high flowed from the east side of the plant, facing the Pacific Ocean, affecting a far longer coastline.


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