Ex-TEPCO execs plead not guilty as trial starts over Fukushima nuclear crisis

Appearing before the Tokyo District Court for the first criminal trial over the disaster, Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, then chairman of TEPCO, started with an apology but added, “It was impossible to predict the accident.”
Two former vice presidents also pleaded not guilty in line with the expected argument from the former officials’ defense — that there was no way to foresee the massive tsunami waves, triggered by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, which engulfed the seaside plant and crippled key reactor cooling functions.
It took Fukushima residents and their supporters more than five years to bring the three former key officials before a criminal court, as prosecutors had thrice decided not to charge them.
After a decision by prosecutors was overturned by an inquest of prosecution made up of ordinary citizens for the second time, Katsumata and the two other defendants — Ichiro Takekuro, 71, and Sakae Muto, 67 — were finally indicted last year.
They are facing charges of professional negligence resulting in the injury of people at the site as well as in the deaths of dozens of patients forced to evacuate from a hospital near the plant.
The case, overseen by a panel of three judges with a group of specially appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors, is not expected to see a ruling at least until next year.
At the trial, the specially appointed lawyers argued that the three former officials had been able to predict that the plant, located on grounds 10 meters above sea level, could be swamped by tsunami waves as big as those that hit the site on March 11, 2011 following the earthquake.

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