Japanese court rejects Taiwanese suit against Koizumi's war shrine visits

A Japanese court Friday rejected a lawsuit by Taiwanese plaintiffs demanding compensation for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine, but ruled that the visits violated Japan's constitution, Kyodo News agency said.

The 188 plaintiffs, including lawmakers and bereaved families of World War II veterans from Taiwan, many of them enshrined at Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine against the families' wishes, sued Koizumi, the Japanese government and the shrine in 2003.

They claimed that the visits violated Japan's constitutional separation of religion and state and caused them psychological suffering. Osaka High Court rejected the compensation demands of 10,000 yen (US$88; euro74) each, but ruled that Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine were public and violated the constitution, the report said.

It was the second ruling against a lawsuit concerning the shrine in as many days. On Thursday, Tokyo High Court turned down a similar case and declared the visits were private, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of worshipping at Yasukuni.

Koizumi has gone to the shrine four times since becoming prime minister in April 2001. A court in southern Japan ruled last year that one of the visits violated the constitution, but the decision lacks the legal force to stop further visits.

The prime minister and his supporters say the visits pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for Japan. But critics, particularly in China and the Koreas, say Koizumi is honoring men who planned and executed Japan's conquest of East Asia in the 1930s and 40s. The 2.5 million war dead are worshipped as deities at Yasukuni, and include wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and others executed for war crimes, AP reports.

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