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Appeal filed against acquittal of ex-TEPCO execs over Fukushima crisis

In this combined photo, from right, former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, and former TEPCO vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto enter into the Tokyo District Court before a verdict in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Sept. 19, 2019. (Mainichi/Toshiki Miyama)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- An appeal was filed with the Tokyo High Court on Monday challenging the acquittal of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the Fukushima nuclear disaster, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

"Letting this decision stand is clearly against justice. Taking into consideration the burden of the victims, it is incumbent to demand a judgement by a higher court," said one of the court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors, who had sought five-year prison terms.

Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, were acquitted Sept. 19 by the Tokyo District Court on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The three were indicted in 2016 for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures leading to the deaths of 44 people -- including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital -- as well as for injuries sustained by 13 people in hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Prosecutors claimed the three would have prevented the nuclear disaster if they had fulfilled their responsibility to collect information and implement safety measures. TEPCO was informed in 2008 that tsunami waves of up to 15.7 meters could strike the Fukushima plant based on the government's long-term evaluation in 2002 of quake risks.

At the district court, Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said in handing down the ruling, "It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators were obliged to predict every possibility related to tsunami and take necessary measures."

On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves exceeding 10 meters triggered by the magnitude 9.0 quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply.

The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered core meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 units. Around 160,000 people were evacuated at one point.

TEPCO and the defense team of the three former executives both declined to comment on the appeal.

TEPCO was reorganized under Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. in 2016.

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