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The Matsuyama District Court on Tuesday rejected compensation demands in a lawsuit that charged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine violated the constitutional separation of state and religion.

The court rejected the suit, filed by 133 people and two religious groups seeking compensation from the prime minister, the government and the war-related Shinto shrine in Tokyo, without making a judgment on whether Koizumi’s visits violated the Constitution.

Tuesday’s ruling covered three of the four visits Koizumi has made to the shrine since becoming prime minister.

The plaintiffs, including relatives of the war dead in Shikoku, had sought 10,000 yen in damages per person and per group, saying Koizumi’s visits, which they described as religious activities, caused them emotional distress.

But presiding Judge Mitsunobu Sakakura said in handing down the ruling, “The prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine did not have any kind of binding power on the plaintiffs, or lead to any disadvantage for them.”

He said the visits do not infringe on the welfare of the plaintiffs.

“The visits did not place limitations on the plaintiffs in making their own decisions or taking action in paying respects to the war dead,” he said.

Koizumi has been visiting Yasukuni Shrine every year since August 2001.

The plaintiffs are considering appealing the ruling, their lawyers said.

Similar lawsuits over Koizumi’s visits to the shrine have been filed at district courts in Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka, Fukuoka and Naha.

On Feb. 27, the Osaka District Court rejected compensation demands filed by a group of 631 people over Koizumi’s visit to the shrine on Aug. 13, 2001.

Regarded by other Asian countries as a symbol of Japan’s military past, Yasukuni honors 14 convicted World War II Class-A war criminals.

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