Hundreds protest dropped charges over Fukushima crisis
TOKYO, Japan – Hundreds rallied in Tokyo on Saturday, March 1, to protest Japanese prosecutors' decision to drop charges over the Fukushima nuclear crisis, with no one yet punished nearly three years after the "man-made" disaster.
No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of radiation released when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake crashed into the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011, swamping cooling systems and sparking reactor meltdowns.
However, some Fukushima residents committed suicide owing to fears over radiation, while others died during evacuation. Official data released last week showed that 1,656 people have died in the prefecture from stress and other illnesses related to the disaster three years ago.
"There are many victims of the accident, but there is no (charged) assailant," chief rally organizer Ruiko Muto, 61, told the protesters, displaying a photograph of Kawauchi village which was hit by the nuclear accident.
"We are determined to keep telling our experiences as victims to pursue the truth of the accident, and we want to avoid a repeat of the accident in the future," she said. (READ: Japan marks second tsunami anniversary)
Tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes around the plant, with scientists warning some areas may have to be abandoned.
"I used to grow organic rice... But I can't do it anymore because of consumers' worries over radioactive contamination," Kazuo Nakamura, 45, a farmer from Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture, told the rally.
"I want (Fukushima operator) TEPCO officials and bureaucrats of the central government to eat the Fukushima-made rice," he shouted to applause.
A parliamentary report has said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan's culture of "reflexive obedience" and not just by the tsunami that crippled the plant.
Some 15,000 people whose homes or farms were hit by radiation from the stricken plant filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against the Japanese government and officials of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).
However, prosecutors in September decided not to charge any of them with negligence over the nuclear disaster.
Campaigners immediately appealed against the decision to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, which has the power to order the defendants to be tried.
The committee members comprise 11 citizens who are chosen at random by lot.
But the appeal was made in Tokyo instead of Fukushima, a move campaigners say is "aimed at preventing us from filing a complaint against their decision in Fukushima, where many residents share our anger and grief".
"We want to share with many people in Tokyo our anger and sadness over the fact that no one has taken responsibility three years after the accident," one of the organisers, 43-year-old Miwa Chiwaki, told Agence France-Presse.
Junko Honda, 48, who evacuated to the northern island of Hokkaido with her family, said his son had to give up his post-high school education because the family income is lower there.
"We can never forgive TEPCO and the government," she said.
Campaigners allege that government officials and TEPCO executives failed to take necessary measures to shield the plant against the March 2011 tsunami.
They also hold them responsible for a delay in announcing data predicting how radiation would spread from the facility in the aftermath of the accident.
But prosecutors decided to exempt all of them, saying that TEPCO and government officials could not predict an earthquake and tsunami of that size, and there was nothing wrong with their post-quake response under unexpected emergency situations.
Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer representing the campaigners, said "there were lots of measures that officials could have taken to prevent the disaster."
"We won't give up indictment of the officials," he said.
Campaigners last year filed a separate complaint to prosecutors over TEPCO's handling of increasing waters contaminated with radiation after used for cooling the stricken reactors, accusing them of committing pollution-related crimes.
Separately, TEPCO officials and senior government officials face several civil lawsuits that were filed by thousands of plaintiffs seeking compensation for mental and financial damage, demanding full restoration of the pre-accident environment in their hometowns.
The waves created by the tsunami swept more than 18,000 people to their deaths across the country and destroyed entire communities. – Rappler.com