October 24, 2014 / 7:28 AM / 3 years ago

Japan prosecutors delay ruling on possible Fukushima indictments

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors have delayed a decision on whether to charge three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co for their handling of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, an official with a special panel that requested an indictment said on Friday.

The Tokyo’s District Prosecutors Office had been reinvestigating the case, after a citizens’ panel ruled in July that three former Tepco executives, including then-chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, should be indicted over their handling of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The official at the citizens’ panel declined to comment on the details of the notice. Kyodo news agency said the deadline for a decision had been extended by three months to the end of January.

Prosecutors last year declined to charge more than 30 Tepco and government officials who had been accused by residents of ignoring the risks from natural disasters and failing to respond appropriately when the crisis struck.

If the prosecutors again decline to take up the case, as some experts expect, the 11-member panel of unidentified citizens can order prosecutors to indict if eight members vote in favor.

Prosecutorial Review Commissions, made up of citizen appointees, are a rarely used but high-profile feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic over-reach. They were given the power to force prosecutions in 2009.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Edwina Gibbs

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