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Japanese court rejects suit against Koizumi's war shrine visits
Updated: 2004-11-25 13:46

A Japanese court rejected a lawsuit seeking compensation for mental anguish allegedly caused by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's 2001 visit to a shrine honoring the country's war dead, including executed war criminals, a court spokesman said.

The Chiba District Court near Tokyo ruled on a suit by a group of 63 plaintiffs who argued that Koizumi's visit violated the Constitutional separation of religion and state, court spokesman Hirofumi Nakazato said.

They were seeking 630 million yen (US$6.13 million) from the government for emotional damages caused by the visit.

The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the visits, but rejected the compensation demand, Kyodo News said.

Nakazato said he could not provide contents of the ruling.

The Yasukuni Shinto shrine honors Japan's 2.5 million war dead, but it also includes military officials executed for war crimes.

The plaintiffs argued that Koizumi used his official title when signing the shrine visitor book and used a government car to drive to the monument.

Koizumi has argued that he made the visits as a private citizen, but the court acknowledged that they were made in his official capacity, Kyodo reported.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said after the ruling that the government agreed with the rejection of compensation, but regretted the determination that the visits were official.

Since taking office in 2001, Koizumi has paid four visits to Yasukuni, which was a center of pro-war sentiment and emperor-worship during Japan's pre-1945 militarist period.

The visits have drawn criticism from Asian countries where many still harbor bitter memories of Japanese aggression in the first half of 1900s.

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