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Former Hansen’s disease patients have informed a national society for the disease of their opposition to having a controversial head of a sanitarium take the position of society chairman in the next election to be held in May, it was learned Sunday.

It is widely believed that Masao Yufu, director of the national sanitarium Kikuchi Keifu-en in the town of Koshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, will be elected to the top post of the society.

However, Yufu has come under sharp criticism from former patients who filed lawsuits demanding compensation from the government, maintaining that state segregation and other policies against Hansen’s sufferers infringed on their human rights.

The suit formally ended in January, with the state agreeing to pay damages.

A group comprising plaintiffs in the compensation lawsuits, as well as their legal team, sent a letter of protest to the society.

They pointed to an article Yufu wrote for a newsletter of the self-government association of the sanitarium in January which could be taken as criticism of the launch of the lawsuit, prompting anger from former patients.

In addition, the director also wrote an essay, which could be similarly interpreted in a book published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers. The publisher has since decided to delete his essay in full.

The former patients of the disease and their lawyers said that they cannot allow Yufu to be the chairman of the society, because he does not understand the former patients’ painful experience of being forcibly placed in sanitariums.

However, Yufu said he is still determined to become the next society chairman, which will be determined when the society convenes in Shizuoka Prefecture next month.

“It is the society that decides who is to become chairman,” he said. “I intend to assume the post.”

The chairman of the society is usually selected from those who have ties with the venue of the next meeting. The next meeting is to be held in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Yufu is regarded as the likeliest candidate.

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