31 Juillet 2014
July 31, 2014
Inquest panel calls for indictments against former TEPCO executives
July 31, 2014
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Rejecting a decision by prosecutors, an independent judicial panel of citizens said July 31 that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. should be indicted over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution said charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury are warranted against former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office had decided not to indict 42 people, including the three former TEPCO executives.
In response to the inquest committee’s decision, however, the prosecutors office will reinvestigate the case to decide whether to indict the three.
If prosecutors again decide not to indict them but the inquest committee maintains its stance that they should be held criminally responsible for the disaster, the three will be indicted mandatorily and stand trial.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami led to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, residents affected by the accident and citizens groups filed complaints with prosecutors against the 42 people. Those named in the complaints included not only the former TEPCO executives, but also former high-ranking government officials, including Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the disaster.
The groups said some inpatients died on their way to evacuation centers from hospitals while others were exposed to radiation from the nuclear power plant.
The prosecutors office accepted the complaints in August 2012. But after the investigations wrapped up, they decided in September 2013 not to indict any of the 42 people.
Prosecutors said the size and scale of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami could not have been predicted by experts. They also said evidence of negligence among the 42 people was insufficient.
But a group of people, including those affected by the nuclear accident, asked the prosecution inquest committee in October 2013 to examine the evidence against six former TEPCO executives, including Katsumata, Muto and Takekuro.
In the July 31 announcement of its decision, the inquest panel pointed out that before the nuclear accident, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami as high as “15.7 meters” could hit the Fukushima plant, based on a government organization’s forecast.
The actual tsunami was 15.5 meters at the highest point and inundated the reactor buildings that were located 10 meters above sea level.
“Assuming the arrival of such a tsunami, TEPCO should have taken countermeasures, although it is impossible to predict when it would arrive because a tsunami is a natural phenomenon,” the panel said.
Jul. 31, 2014 - Updated 05:36 UTC+2
A prosecution inquest panel has decided that 3 former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company should be indicted for their handling of the March 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Residents of Fukushima Prefecture and others filed criminal complaints in 2012 against more than 30 TEPCO officials.
They claimed the utility's lack of precautions against a massive earthquake and tsunami amounts to professional negligence resulting in injury.
But prosecutors dismissed the complaints in September last year, saying the officials could not have predicted an earthquake and tsunami of such scale.
The plaintiffs took the issue to a prosecution inquest panel made up of randomly-selected citizens.
They'd narrowed their target to 6 former TEPCO executives, including former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata.
On Thursday, the panel judged the prosecution wrong and said Katsumata and 2 others should stand trial.
For the other 3, the panel judged one of the non-indictments as unjust and the other 2 as appropriate.
The prosecution will now decide whether to indict the 4 who've been judged found trial-worthy.
The panel said that Tokyo Electric Power Company has recognized that the utility will not be able to easily ignore future earthquakes and tsunami projected by a science ministry panel.
The panel said that even though it is uncertain whether natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunami will come or not, TEPCO had to take measures on the basis that such earthquakes and tsunami are likely to hit its Fukushima plant.
If prosecutors decide again not to indict them, the case will automatically go back to the inquest panel. If the panel repeats its judgment, Katsumata and the other 2 will be forced to stand trial.
Regarding former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other government leaders at the time of the disaster, another inquest panel has already judged as appropriate the decision by prosecutors not to indict them.
Former TEPCO chairman Katsumata has told NHK he is in no position to comment on the panel's judgment.
The plaintiffs' leader, Ruiko Muto, said it's disappointing that not all 6 were judged trial-worthy, but described the decision as honest and proper.
She called for an immediate re-investigation by the prosecution.
Ex-TEPCO execs merit indictment over nuclear crisis: prosecution panel
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- An independent judicial panel of citizens said Thursday it has decided that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. merit indictment over the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution voted in favor of the decision on Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of TEPCO at the time of the disaster, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.
The panel said the former executives had failed to take sufficient steps to ensure safety despite the possibility that a massive tsunami could trigger an unprecedented accident.
The move comes after Japanese prosecutors decided last September not to indict former leaders of the Fukushima plant operator, citing their lack of criminal responsibility.
With the latest decision, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is expected to resume investigations into the three former officials. If they decide not to indict them or do not announce a decision within three months, the prosecution inquest panel will discuss the case once again.
Katsumata and the two others will face mandatory indictment should the panel decide again that they merit indictment.
Last September, prosecutors judged it was difficult to foresee the scale of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that triggered the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
But around 5,700 people, including Fukushima residents affected by the nuclear crisis, were dissatisfied with the prosecutors' decision and asked the inquest panel to review the case last October.