A Japanese court yesterday refused to order former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi to pay damages to people who said they suffered mental anguish from his controversial visits to a war shrine.
Eighty relatives of World War II victims had each sought ?100,000 (US$840) in damages from Koizumi and the state for the former leader's pilgrimages to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors war dead including war criminals.
Judge Masaaki Kobayashi of the Fukuoka High court in southern Japan upheld a lower court ruling that the plaintiffs had no legal grounds to seek damages.
The lawsuit claimed Koizumi had violated the constitutional separation of religion and state as he used an official car to the shrine and signed his name as prime minister. Koizumi's defense has argued that he went as a private citizen.
The lawsuit was filed by residents of the southern island chain of Okinawa, which was the site of the fiercest Pacific battle in World War II and where anti-war sentiment runs deep.
Koizumi, who stepped down last month, visited the shrine six times while in office, enraging China and South Korea, which see the site as a symbol of Japan's past imperialism.
The new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a past defender of the shrine, has refused to say whether he will visit while in office. This week he travelled to China and South Korea in a bid to repair relations damaged under Koizumi.
Lower courts have delivered divided judgments in a raft of cases filed by critics of Koizumi's pilgrimage.
The Supreme Court ruled on the row for the first time in July, handing Koizumi a victory by refusing to award damages to critics of the shrine or to rule on whether his pilgrimage was constitutional.
The latest case dealt specifically with Koizumi's visits to the shrine in 2001 and 2002.