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OSAKA — A group of 236 people, including 124 Taiwanese, filed a lawsuit Monday seeking 2.36 million yen in damages over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s controversial visit to Yasukuni Shrine in January.

Among the plaintiffs, who filed the suit with the Osaka District Court, are relatives of indigenous Taiwanese who were forcibly conscripted into the Japanese military and perished during the war.

The suit charges that Koizumi’s Jan. 14 visit to the Tokyo shrine has caused considerable mental stress to the relatives of those conscripted because their relatives were enshrined at Yasukuni without their consent.

The defendants named in the suit are Koizumi, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama and the shrine itself. The plaintiffs, who also include 111 Japanese and one Korean resident in Japan, are seeking 10,000 yen each in compensation.

“Yasukuni Shrine is not a shrine of peace. It is a shrine of war. The fact that the prime minister visited Yasukuni shows clearly that neither he nor the Japanese government have reflected on the pain and suffering of our bereaved families,” Ciwas Ali, a representative of the plaintiffs and a member of Taiwan’s parliament, said at a news conference.

An estimated 210,000 Taiwanese were conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army during the war, about 35,000 of whom were killed. Of these, 27,800 are enshrined at Yasukuni.

“We do not want them enshrined at Yasukuni. We want their spirits returned to their native land,” said Ingka Mevinga, another plaintiff.

Ali added, “Yasukuni is a monument to the prewar state Shinto, which forced people to revere the Japanese emperor against their will. Those Taiwanese enshrined at Yasukuni are claimed by the Japanese government to have died for the emperor. This has caused a lot of grief for the surviving families, because it ignores the truth, which is that the indigenous Taiwanese did not fight voluntarily but were forced to do so.”

Mevinga, along with Ali, demonstrated in front of Yasukuni Shrine last Aug. 15, calling on the government to return the spirits of their ancestors. A distant relative of hers was killed during the war and is one of those enshrined.

Although similar suits have been lodged in several courts in Japan, this is the first time people in Taiwan have sued over Koizumi’s visit to the shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead as well as Class-A war criminals.

Koizumi has visited Yasukuni three times since he took office in April 2001, each time drawing criticism both at home and abroad.

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