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Second batch of families of former leprosy patients sue gov't over quarantine policy

Kazunori Izuchi (right), 79, a member of a second batch of plaintiffs -- comprising family members of former leprosy patients -- that are suing the national government for discrimination stemming from the government's leprosy quarantine policy, speaks at a press conference in Kumamoto on March 29, 2016. (Mainichi)

KUMAMOTO -- A second batch of relatives of former Hansen's disease patients filed a lawsuit March 29 against the national government for damages on the grounds that they suffered discrimination resulting from the government's leprosy quarantine policy.

The suit was filed with the Kumamoto District Court by 509 plaintiffs, each demanding 5 million yen in compensation and an apology. Combined with the first group of 59 plaintiffs, the total number of plaintiffs comes out to 568, expanding a movement to recover damages for the families of former patients, who had previously fallen outside the range of people who could be compensated.

According to the plaintiffs' lawyers, the second group of plaintiffs comprises 509 men and women aged 23 to 96 from around the country. The largest number of plaintiffs, at around 250, hail from Okinawa Prefecture.

Many of the plaintiffs are children of former leprosy patients, but there are spouses and siblings as well. The time limit on the right to seek compensation is said to be at the end of this month, 20 years after the Leprosy Prevention Law, which provided the legal basis for the quarantine of leprosy patients, was abolished. The legal team representing the plaintiffs made a nationwide appeal for potential plaintiffs to consult them by phone after the first batch of plaintiffs filed suit.

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