• The Associated Press

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Opponents of the dispatch of Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Iraq have filed a lawsuit against the government, saying the deployment violates the pacifist Constitution, officials said Tuesday.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Nagoya, 1,262 plaintiffs demanded an end to the mission and 10,000 yen each in compensation for mental suffering caused by the dispatch, which they said violates their constitutional rights to live in peace, plaintiff Yoshinori Ikezumi said.

Former posts minister Noboru Minowa filed a similar suit in January, but Monday’s move is the first group action.

Japan plans to deploy about 1,000 Self-Defense Forces members, including air and maritime elements, to Iraq to help rebuild the country. The mission involves water purification and supply and other noncombat tasks.

Public opinion in Japan is split over the mission, with some saying the dispatch violates the Constitution and could lead to involvement in combat. The government, however, says the mission is needed to help stabilize Iraq and strengthen Japan’s alliance with Washington.

He said the dispatch also violates the Constitution’s Article 9, which renounces the use of force to settle international disputes.

Organizers of the lawsuit recruited supporters online beginning in late January.

Separately Tuesday, a group of 14 people in Okinawa filed a criminal complaint asking local prosecutors to press charges against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for sending troops to combat areas in violation of the Constitution and without public consent.

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