A 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 No. 1 power plant.
The 11-member Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution voted that Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tepco at the time of the disaster, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, should be indicted.
The panel said the former executives had failed to take sufficient crisis management steps to ensure safety despite the possibility that a massive tsunami could trigger an unprecedented accident.
A group of Fukushima residents and others had filed criminal complaints against the Tepco executives for alleged professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection with the nuclear plant disaster.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office decided last September not to indict former leaders of the Fukushima plant operator, saying 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.
With the latest decision, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is expected to resume investigations into the three former officials. If it decides not to indict them or does 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.
Tepco said in a statement that it stands ready to cooperate with investigations “sincerely” if requested.
“It is an appropriate decision. It is an extremely touching judgment,” Hiroyuki Kawai, an attorney representing those who sought a review of the prosecutors’ judgment on six former Tepco executives including Katsumata, Muto and Takekuro told a press conference.
The group argued the executives continued the operation of the Fukushima plant without implementing necessary safety measures, forcing many residents to be exposed to radiation and causing the deaths of patients and the elderly under severe conditions following the nuclear crisis.Of the other three, the panel said Akio Komori, former managing director, merits reinvestigation, while it decided Norio Tsuzumi and Toshiaki Enomoto, both former vice presidents, do not merit indictment.
“I am so happy and can’t put it into words. I think the members of the Tokyo prosecution inquest panel judged the case sincerely as consumers of electricity produced by Tepco,” said Ayako Oga, 41, an evacuee from Fukushima.
“I want the prosecutors to listen to Fukushima residents affected by the accident and indict them (the Tepco officials),” Oga said.
Miwa Chiwaki, 44, secretariat chief of the group said, “I cannot believe that nobody has taken responsibility for the accident.”
Concerning the Fukushima accident, then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other former government officials were also accused of bearing responsibility.
But the prosecutors dropped the case last year and a judicial panel supported their decision.