• Kyodo

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The Osaka District Court rejected Friday a damages suit filed by 45 people against the government and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi over Koizumi’s remark that they are “strange people.”

The plaintiffs had been seeking 50,000 yen each, claiming they had been defamed. They are also members of a group of people who filed lawsuits against Koizumi over his visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. Presiding Judge Takahiro Sumi said the words “strange people” amount to a common and abstract phase, and given that Koizumi was expressing a subjective feeling, were not defamatory.

But because Koizumi is a public figure, his words lacked consideration, the judge said.

“I should be careful about what I say,” Koizumi said afterward. “But I’ve won. That was good.”

Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine in August 2001. Claiming the visit violated constitutional separation between the state and religion, the plaintiffs filed a series of suits with the district courts in Osaka, Matsuyama and Fukuoka, seeking 10,000 yen each.

Referring to the lawsuits, Koizumi said: “It doesn’t make any sense. There are some strange people in this world.” The 45 plaintiffs in the defamation suit claimed that the comments were clearly personal attacks and exceeded the realm of reasonable criticism.

Koizumi’s defense counsel countered that his remarks were in response to questions by reporters and that they were not defamatory.

Despite the lawsuits, Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead, in April 2002 and again in January this year. Hiroshi Kashima, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said the ruling makes it clear that Koizumi lacked consideration in making the comments and is meaningful if it helps prevent the prime minister from making careless remarks in the future.

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