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A nationwide organization for atomic bomb survivors said Wednesday it will support some hibakusha in filing group lawsuits demanding the government recognize them as suffering from bomb-related illnesses and pay them special medical allowances.

The general assembly of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo) also unanimously decided at its meeting in Tokyo to seek official recognition for hibakusha from prefectural governments nationwide. It agreed to file group lawsuits against the national government if the applications — to be lodged July 7 — are rejected.

Hidankyo will hold a meeting with lawyers to discuss the lawsuit on July 27. Another meeting will be held Sept. 3 to discuss the contents of the litigation.

The potential plaintiffs are demanding that the government nullify its earlier dismissal of their applications to be recognized as victims of illnesses related to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

It will be the first time for A-bomb survivors to file group lawsuits. Previously, individuals have filed suits, with Nagasaki resident Hideko Matsuya winning a Supreme Court verdict in July.

As of March 2001, there were 291,824 government-certified A-bomb survivors. Of these, only 2,238 — less than 0.77 percent — were recognized by the government as having A-bomb-related illnesses.

Each year, there are 300 to 400 applicants seeking recognition of their claims to be suffering illnesses caused by the atomic bombs. The government acknowledges less than one-third of such applicants.

The government provides about 140,000 yen a month in medical allowances to those it recognizes as sufferers of bomb-related illnesses.

Hidankyo said that although Matsuya won her case, such individual cases do not force the government to extend the allowance to other survivors suffering from similar bomb-related illnesses. It said it hopes the class-action suit will have the power to move the government.

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