TOKYO: Three former executives of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant operator were indicted Monday over the 2011 atomic accident, in what will be the first criminal trial linked to the disaster.
Ex-Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, then-vice president Sakae Muto and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in deaths and injury.
The trio was not taken into custody.
“We were notified from our lawyers that the three were indicted,” a spokeswoman for a campaign group pushing for a trial told AFP.
A judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in July — for the second time since the accident — that the trio should be put on trial.
The decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case under Japanese law.
Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.
It will be the first criminal trial over responsibility for the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns that forced tens of thousands from their homes in the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
Public broadcaster NHK said the three would plead not guilty, arguing it was impossible to predict the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into Japan’s northeast coast.
Although the March 11 earthquake and tsunami killed 18,500 people, the nuclear disaster it caused is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.