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Ex-Japanese Energy Company Executives Acquitted in Fukushima Disaster

Activists hold placards during a rally in front of the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Sept. 19, 2019, after the court acquitted three former officials from the firm that operated the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. have been acquitted in Tokyo District Court on criminal charges related to the 2011 meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern Japan.

Prosecutors had accused former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro of professional negligence for failing to act on studies that showed Fukushima could be at risk from the threat of a tsunami. The trio was also accused of causing the deaths of more than 40 people who died after having been forced to evacuate the area near the plant.

Katsumata, Muto and Takekuro were the only people facing criminal prosecution involving the disaster. Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence each executive to five years in jail in a trial that lasted more than two years.

A powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake in March 2011 triggered a massive tsunami that killed 20,000 people and caused the meltdown of Fukushima’s three nuclear reactors in northeastern Japan, making it the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.