High court rejects appeal over Koizumi's Yasukuni visit

Toyko, Japan - The Takamatsu High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal in a damages suit over former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's 2004 visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, upholding a lower court ruling.

In the suit, bereaved families of the war dead as well as religious practitioners in the Shikoku region had demanded that Koizumi, the state and Yasukuni Shrine pay them 10,000 yen each, arguing they had suffered anguish due to Koizumi's visit.

They had also claimed the visit violated the constitutional separation of state and religion, but Presiding Judge Tsutomu Mabuchi said, "It cannot be said that the plaintiffs' legal benefits have been damaged by the premier's visit."

Mabuchi also said, "It is not necessary to give a judgment if the visit is constitutional," while declining to rule whether the visit was carried out in a public or private capacity.

The plaintiffs are planning to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Matsuyama District Court on March 15 rejected the damages suit over Koizumi's visit on Jan. 1, 2004, without ruling on its constitutionality or indicating whether Koizumi paid an official or private visit.

The latest ruling is the 18th over Koizumi's Yasukuni visit --three by the Supreme Court, seven by high courts and eight by district courts, all of them rejecting plaintiffs' demands for damages.

The Fukuoka District Court in April 2004 and the Osaka High Court in September 2005, meanwhile, determined the visit was unconstitutional.