Three former TEPCO executives to stand trialThree former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company will face mandatory indictment over the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Nobody has been held criminally responsible so far for Japan's worst nuclear accident.
The prosecution inquest panel of randomly-selected citizens voted for the indictment on Friday, disagreeing for a 2nd time with prosecutors who had dismissed the complaint filed against the officials. The prosecutors said the officials could not have predicted a quake and tsunami on the scale of the March 11th disasters.
The decision leads to the mandatory indictment of former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro for professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
Court-appointed lawyers will act as prosecutors in the trial.
In its decision, the panel said TEPCO should have taken measures to protect the plant from tsunami and flood-triggered serious accidents after it had made a projection of a 15.7-meter tsunami hitting the plant.
The panel said TEPCO could have foreseen that in a worst-case scenario, flooding would result in a massive release of radioactive substances or other severe situations. The panel said that if TEPCO had taken appropriate precautions, a serious accident like the one in March 2011 could have been avoided.
Prosecutors in 2013 dismissed the initial complaints filed by Fukushima residents and others against more than 30 former TEPCO officials for failing to take precautions against major quakes and tsunami.
The case was taken up for reconsideration by the inquest panel, which decided in July last year that the three officials should be indicted.
But prosecutors dismissed the case again in January, sending it back to the inquest panel.
Residents hail indictment decisionThe leader of the residents, Ruiko Muto, has praised the panel's decision.
Muto said she believes a court will determine who was responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and give a fair judgment.
She said that 110,000 people are still unable to return to their homes. She added that having the former executives face a criminal trial will help prevent a recurrence and create a society in which people can live in peace.
The residents' lawyer, Hiroyuki Kawai, also said that if the former officials had escaped indictment, the real cause of the accident would have been covered up forever.
He expressed hope that the trial will find out more about what caused the nuclear accident.
TEPCO declined to comment on the decision or the criminal complaint that led to it.
But it said in a statement that it wants to renew its heartfelt apology to the people of Fukushima and many others for causing trouble and concern.
The firm said it will do its utmost for compensation, plant decommissioning and decontamination, based on the principle of seeking reconstruction of Fukushima. It added that it is fully resolved to improving the safety of nuclear power plants.