Tepco executives on trial in Fukushima nuclear disaster
On charges linked to Fukishima disaster, three of the former power company executives have gone on trial in Japan.
This will be the first criminal trial over the 2011 meltdown at the nuclear plant.
The meltdown which was triggered by an earthquake that had caused a massive tsunami, was the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
All three of the executives had pleaded not guilty to professional negligence which resulted in the death and injury of patients who were evacuated from a hospital near the plant.
Large areas were left uninhabitable, and about 18,500 were left dead or missing due to the quake and tsunami.
The former three executives of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) are chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and vice-presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71.
If the Chairmans are found guilty they could face up to five years in prison. This is the first ever trial which deals with the Fukishima disaster.
Previously two attempts to press criminal charges against the former executives had been dismissed by the prosecution as having little chance of success.
However, in 2015 a judicial review panel had ruled that the three men should be put on trial which meant that the prosecution had to pick up the case.
Other trials which had been related to the Fukushima disaster have been, for instance, over compensation claims.
No-one had directly died in the Fukushima accident. However the charges against the three men are linked to the deaths of more than 40 patients who had to be evacuated from a hospital in the area and later died.
The patients were critically ill already, however their deaths had been attributed to the fact that they had to be hastily rushed out of the evacuation zone and into different hospitals.
More than 200,000 people had been forced to leave their homes because of concerns of nuclear contamination when three reactors had failed at the plant after it was flooded.
Furthermore, there are hopes that the trial will shed more light on the wider responsibilities around the disaster.
Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that had pushed for the trial talked to the press outside the court and said that “Since the accident, nobody has been held responsible nor has it been made clear why it happened.”
The meltdown had lead to the complete shutdown of all nuclear reactors in the country, however despite widespread anti-nuclear sentiment, several reactors have since resumed operations after passing special safety checks.
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