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The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday rejected a damages suit by about 1,000 people, including South Koreans, who said visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara were unconstitutional.

The situation did not warrant that the plaintiffs’ rights or interests should be legally protected, presiding Judge Hiroyuki Shibata said in handing down the ruling.

The court did not rule on whether visits to the shrine — which is regarded by critics as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past — violated the constitutional separation of religion and state. It also did not make any judgment on whether the visits were made in a private or official capacity.

The plaintiffs had demanded Koizumi, Ishihara and the national and Tokyo metropolitan governments pay 30,000 yen to each claimant for damages caused by the visits. They also asked the court to prevent the two from visiting the shrine again.

The plaintiffs said they intend to appeal.

Commenting on the ruling, Koizumi told reporters he sees no point in the lawsuit against his visits.

“I don’t understand why the matter is put on trial . . . I don’t think this is an issue for the courts,” he said.

The ruling comes at a time when Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have become increasingly strained over several contentious issues, including history textbooks and Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni, which includes Class-A criminals among the enshrined war dead.

The Tokyo court was the last of six district courts across Japan to rule on seven similar suits filed by a total of more than 2,000 plaintiffs.

All of the courts — in Chiba, Osaka, Matsuyama, Fukuoka, Naha and Tokyo — rejected the damage suits.

The Fukuoka court was the only one to issue a constitutional judgment, stating in April 2004 that Koizumi’s Yasukuni visit in August 2001 violated the Constitution’s provision on the separation of state and religion, because he went in his official capacity. The ruling became final when no appeals were filed.

According to the suit, filed in December 2001, the plaintiffs said the visits by Koizumi and Ishihara were in violation of the constitutional provision guaranteeing religious freedom and the separation of state and religion.

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