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The Tokyo District Court on Thursday ordered the government to pay some 2.4 billion yen in damages to 4,763 residents near the U.S. Yokota Air Base, west of Tokyo, for noise pollution caused by U.S. military aircraft.

The court, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ request for the U.S. government to suspend early morning and late night flights at the base, saying it is beyond the jurisdiction of a Japanese civil court.

Presiding Judge Toshiko Sekino of the court’s Hachioji branch also rejected requests for compensation for future suffering.

The group of plaintiffs consists of 5,917 residents in Hachioji and Akishima, both in western Tokyo, and Iruma, Saitama Prefecture. It is the country’s largest pollution lawsuit.

The plaintiffs will appeal the ruling, they said.

They were seeking a total of about 12 billion yen in damages — between 600,000 yen and 800,000 yen per person — arguing that they suffered insomnia and mental distress attributable to military aircraft noise between 1996 and 1998.

In handing down the decision, Sekino said aircraft noise attributable to the base has negatively affected many local residents’ daily lives and health, although noise-proofing installed by the Japanese government has helped ease the effects a little.

During the trial, the government maintained that residents who moved to the areas after 1966 must have been more or less aware of the noise problem beforehand, because the pollution was already an issue then.

In similar lawsuits, the first of which dates back to the 1970s, the court ruled in favor of damages payments but rejected demands for injunctions against military flight restrictions. This led the plaintiffs to also target the U.S. government in new lawsuits in 1996.

They lost their case against the U.S. in April, after Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that sovereign activities of foreign countries are outside the jurisdiction of civil courts.

The base, which has a 4,000-meter runway, extends over an area of some 7 sq. km in Fussa and five other municipalities in the western suburbs of Tokyo.

The plaintiffs welcomed the decision on compensation but were disappointed the suspension of flights was rejected.

Meanwhile, Michio Ishii, chief of the general affairs department of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, said the court’s rejection of the suspension of flights and compensation for future suffering were appropriate.

“The government will make further efforts to improve the living conditions of the residents around the U.S. Yokota base,” he said.

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