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Tokyo court rejects PM war shrine visit lawsuit

[JURIST] The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit seeking an order compelling Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official profile] to stop visiting the Yasukuni war shrine [shrine website], a shrine that honors all Japanese war dead, including war criminals. The lawsuit, filed by 137 Japanese and South Korean plaintiffs and a South Korean advocacy group also sought 30,000 yen, or $258, for each plaintiff in damages for mental anguish. The plaintiffs argued that Koizumi and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara [Wikipedia profile] violated the constitution's separation of religion and state when visiting the shrine. Judge Yoshito Abe ruled that the plaintiffs had no grounds for damages, saying that how people feel about the shrine visits depends on "personal and subjective factors," including how they personally perceive the shrine. Abe added that since the visits by Koizumi and Ishihara do not violate the plaintiffs' rights, there is no constitutional issue to rule on.

The Japan Supreme Court ruled in a similar fashion [JURIST report] last week, rejecting a bid by 338 plaintiff survivors of South Korean, Japanese, and Chinese soldiers killed during wars involving Japan, without ruling on the constitutionality of the visits. The plaintiffs in that case argued that Koizumi visited the shrine in 2001 in an official capacity, impermissibly violating Japan's constitutional barriers between religion and state. Koizumi has defended his visits to the shrine [JURIST report], saying that other nations should not make domestic issues of spiritual matters. Last September, Japan's Osaka High Court ruled [JURIST report] that the Prime Minister's visits violate constitutional provisions for the separation of church and state, but an October decision upheld [JURIST report] a lower court ruling [JURIST report] to dismiss a lawsuit against Koizumi. AFP has more.

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