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Japan court rules PM shrine visits unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Osaka High Court ruled on Friday that visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official website, English version] to a Shinto shrine for war dead [official website, English] violate Japan's constitutional provisions for separation of church and state. The visits are also controversial because China and South Korea consider the shrine a monument to Japanese militarism during the early 20th century. The ruling seems to conflict with Thursday's dismissal by a Tokyo court of a suit seeking damages for the visits [JURIST report], in which the court held that the visits were private acts. Still, it doesn't prevent Koizumi from making the visits, and Japanese legal and political experts say it likely won't influence his decisions. Koizumi last visited in January 2004 and has not announced whether or not he will return this year. Reuters has more.

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