An online petition urging an appeal to the acquittal of three men charged in relation to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has proven successful.
Japanese lawyers lodged an appeal Sept. 30 to a ruling earlier in the month that cleared three top executives of utility company Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, of professional negligence.
It is the only criminal trial to have been held as a result of the 2011 disaster, which was triggered by a massive tsunami that resulted in multiple meltdowns at the plant, forcing the evacuation of 160,000 residents.
The three former executives, former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and senior executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, were accused of professional negligence causing death and injury having failed to heed advice about the possibility of a large-scale tsunami inundating the nuclear facility.
Prosecutors, who had sought 5-year prison terms for the trio, had argued that there had been sufficient warnings and evidence that such an event could occur and that the TEPCO executives had ignored that evidence and failed to improve the plant’s defence system.
Defence lawyers argued that even if countermeasures had been carried out, they would not have prevented a disaster that so large nobody had ever predicted it could happen.
Presiding judge, Kenichi Nagafuchi, agreed with the defence, ruling at the Tokyo District Court on Sept. 19 that the executives could not have foreseen the magnitude 9 quake.
Around 14,000 people have since signed an online petition demanding an appeal of that ruling, prompting lawyers to file with the Tokyo District Court.
Though TEPCO claims the nuclear disaster itself did not lead directly to any fatalities, around 50 residents — mostly elderly — died as a result of the enforced evacuation.
Thousands of evacuees who have been unable to return to their homes are currently suing TEPCO for millions of dollars in damages in civil law cases.
SOURCES: NHK, Asahi Shimbun