Japan court rejects claims by WWII laborers

Updated: 2007-03-26 15:16
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TOKYO - A Japanese court Monday rejected demands for compensation of about 184 million yen (US$1.56 million) by a group of Chinese forced to work as slave laborers at a Japanese mine during World War II, a court official said.

The Miyazaki District court dismissed the suit seeking damages from the Japanese government and Mitsubishi Metals Corp., formerly Mitsubishi Metal, that operated the mine in Hinokage on the southern island of Kyushu during the World War II, said court spokeswoman Tomomi Hirata.

Kyodo News agency quoted judge Yumiko Tokuoka as saying the state has an obligation to pay damages but the deadline for filing compensation claims - 20 years under Japanese law - had expired.

The suit was filed by seven Chinese men who said they were among 250 people, mostly from China's Shandong province, who were forcibly brought to Makimine mine in Hinokage town, 890 kilometers (550 miles) southwest of Tokyo, toward the end of World War II, according to Kyodo.

A relative of a laborer, who has since died, also joined the suit, it said.

The plaintiffs charged that Chinese laborers were forced to work under severe conditions and meager food, and often with no salary. Seventy-seven of the workers died from illnesses and other causes, Kyodo quoted them as saying.

Monday's ruling comes nearly two weeks after the Tokyo High Court overturned a lower court's landmark verdict that held a company and the government responsible for the World War II conscription of Chinese as slave laborers.

The Tokyo District Court in 2004 ordered a Japanese company and the Japanese government to pay plaintiffs damages - the first ruling in Japan that ordered the state to pay compensation in such a case.

But on March 14, the Tokyo High Court ruled the present government wasn't accountable for wrongs committed by Japan's wartime leaders, even though the government and companies had committed an illegal act by bringing the Chinese to Japan against their will and forcing them to work.