Survivors of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident expressed disappointment and anger at the announcement Sept. 9 by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office that it will not seek to indict any high-ranking government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials connected with the meltdown.
Hiroyuki Kawai, the lead lawyer for a group of about 15,000 disaster victims and others who submitted criminal complaints against officials in the government and TEPCO, the plant operator, criticized the decision.
"How can they say they conducted a thorough investigation when they did not carry out any raids on relevant offices?" Kawai asked. The group was seeking professional negligence resulting in death and injury and other charges against 42 officials.
"From the very beginning, it was not an investigation seeking indictments, but rather, one conducted so no indictments would be handed down," the lawyer said.
Journalist Soichiro Tawara also questioned the decision by prosecutors not to carry out raids on TEPCO offices to dig up evidence.
"As long as there is the possibility that new evidence could emerge, such raids should have been carried out and a decision should only have been made after all the evidence was examined," he said. "It cannot be claimed a thorough investigation was conducted."
Yasuyuki Takai, a lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor, explained the decision. He said there were high barriers to proving responsibility for the accident. He added that the problem lay in the Criminal Code that emphasizes punishing only individuals responsible for accidents.
"For cases like the Fukushima nuclear accident, priority should be given to prevention," Takai said. "A new structure is needed that would target companies as subject to punishment, which could be facilitated by granting immunity from criminal responsibility to individuals in a bid to dig up the truth."
Criticism was also directed at the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors Office, which had transferred the cases to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office before the decision was made to not indict anyone.
Kawai said his group had wanted to submit a case to the Fukushima prosecution inquest panel so that residents of Fukushima could decide if the decision made by prosecutors was appropriate. He added that the group would submit a request to the Fukushima prosecution inquest panel seeking to overturn the decision to transfer the complaint to Tokyo prosecutors.
One of the victims, Kazuya Tarukawa, 38, a farmer in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, said, "It is very heartbreaking if the decision not to indict leads to the erasing of the calls made by disaster victims to pursue responsibility for the accident."
Prior to the nuclear accident, Tarukawa's father, Hisashi, often said, "Anything made by man will one day break down. Can humans really control nuclear power plants?"
After the nuclear accident, the central government issued warnings on the consumption of certain Fukushima-grown produce. The following day, Hisashi, who was then 64, took his own life, leaving behind a cabbage crop that was ready for harvest.
Reiko Hachisuka, 61, who currently lives in temporary housing in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, said, "I want to shout, 'Why is no one being held responsible?' "
Hachisuka operated a flower shop in Okuma, where the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located. She also headed the town’s commerce and industry association.
After the nuclear accident, she joined the Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission as a representative of disaster victims. Flabbergasted at the attitude of Tsunehisa Katsumata, TEPCO’s chairman at the time of the accident, Hachisuka asked him, "What company do you serve as chairman?"
She now said she only feels frustration that no one seems to want to take responsibility for the disaster.
"Even if responsible individuals were pursued, the nature of the utility would not change," she said. "I am very saddened because no one has stepped forward and said, 'I am the person responsible.' "
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