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Court rejects Koizumi war shrine visit suit
Latest Updated by 2005-09-29 15:20:54
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Tokyo High Court on Thursday rejected a suit against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's 2001 visit to a war shrine criticized in Asia for glorifying Japan's past militarism.

The decision backed up an earlier ruling by a lower court, which threw out a suit demanding compensation for anguish stemming from the visit by Koizumi to Yasukuni Shrine, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

The suit, brought by 39 plaintiffs demanding 10 million yen (US$88,495; euro73,519.15) each in damages, also alleged that Koizumi's visit violated the constitutional separation of state and religion.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said they would appeal.

"Koizumi's visit obviously violates the constitution, and the ruling is only supporting him," said Kazuhiro Uetake, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

Kyodo News agency reported that the court concluded Koizumi's visit did not infringe on the plaintiffs' rights. The judge also ruled that Koizumi worshipped there privately, and therefore there was no need to decide whether the visit violated the constitution, the report said.

In the previous ruling in November 2004, the Chiba District Court near Tokyo also rejected the suit, then brought by 63 plaintiffs, and also did not rule on the constitutional question.

The high court decision came just after Koizumi made it clear that he would visit the shrine again this year.

In an interview with British newspaper The Times earlier this week, Koizumi said, despite the impact on foreign relations, he expected to visit the war shrine by the end of the year.

"I believe Chinese leaders are aware of my intentions," he said. "China is opposing my visits to Yasukuni Shrine for political reasons. In addition, I assume that China doesn't welcome a growth in Japans political influence. They are opposed, for example, to Japan becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council because they want to check Japans influence."

Yasukuni enshrines Japan's 2.5 million war dead, including executed war criminals from World War II.

Koizumi argues that he has made the visits _ four since taking office in 2001 _ as a way of honoring those who lost their lives in Japan's wars, and to pray for peace. His last visit was January 2004, and some suspect he will visit again before the end of the year.

Worshipping there also serves a political purpose by satisfying the demands of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's right-wing and an influential lobbying group made up of war veterans and the families of the war dead.

The visits, however, have enraged Japanese neighbors and contributed to deteriorating relations with South Korea and China, which bore the brunt of Tokyo's aggressive conquest of East Asia in the first half of the 20th century.

Critics say that Yasukuni, which considers fallen soldiers to be deities, glorifies Japan's past militarism, and Koizumi's worshipping there gives that view an official stamp of approval.

Shrine opponents also say the visits violate the constitutional separation of state and religion. Yasukuni belongs to Japan's native Shinto religion, which holds the emperor as its head priest.

Koizumi's visits have prompted a series of lawsuits. Fukuoka District Court in April 2004 ruled the 2001 visit violated the constitution. The ruling, however, does not have the power to prevent further visits.

Editor: Yan

By: Source: China Daily Website
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