More than seven years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, prosecutors in Japan on Wednesday demanded that three former executives from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) each face five years behind bars for failing to ensure the safety of the power plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly. That led to the deaths of many people.”
In March of 2011, the most powerful earthquake to ever strike Japan triggered a tsunami that caused three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex to melt down, forcing hundreds of thousands of nearby residents to evacuate. In court on Wednesday, the prosecution accused TEPCO’s leadership of “postponing” safety measures designed to protect the plant from powerful tsunamis.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” prosecutors said at the trial at the Tokyo District Court, according to The Asahi Shimbum, a Japanese newspaper. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
While the prosecution claims at least 44 people died in connection with the incident, other estimates have put the number around 1,600. Prosecutors called for the five-year sentences, the maximum punishment allowed for the charges, during closing arguments on Wednesday.
The three executives standing trial for negligence resulting in death and injury are former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, as well as former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72. They all pleaded not guilty.
“The case has taken a twisting journey to arrive at this point,” NPR noted. “In two instances, public prosecutors opted not to seek indictments against the three TEPCO executives.”
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