Just one criminal case arose from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, and on Thursday, that case ended with a not-guilty verdict. Three former executives for Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco)—ex-chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 69 and Ichiro Takekuro, 73—were indicted for professional negligence resulting in death and injury over their failure to implement tsunami countermeasures at the nuclear plant. Per the BBC, 44 people who were in the evacuation zone ultimately died after the plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011 and had a triple meltdown, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Thirteen others were hurt by hydrogen explosions at the plant. AFP reports an appeal is likely. Tepco and the government also still face dozens of civil suits seeking compensation.
A Tokyo court cleared the men, who were facing five years behind bars if convicted. Prosecutors, arguing they would likely not be successful in securing a verdict, had twice declined to press charges before a judicial panel forced them to in 2017; during the trial, they said the men had been warned from as early as 2002 that the plant could be hit by a tsunami, but they ignored the warnings. But the judge found that they couldn't have predicted the scale of the disaster. Dozens gathered outside the court to await the ruling. "If we don't hear guilty verdicts, our years-long efforts to bring this to court will not have been rewarded," one protester said. "And Japanese society's culture of no-one taking responsibility will continue." Following the verdict, Tepco simply repeated its statement declaring "sincere apologies for the great inconvenience and concern." (Read more Fukushima Dai-ichi stories.)