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Panel wants TEPCO execs charged over nuke crisis

TOKYO--A Japanese judicial panel has recommended that three former executives of the utility that operates the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant face criminal charges over their role in the disaster.

A document released by the panel on Thursday showed it voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with two vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.

The coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered multiple meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed its power and cooling systems. The cleanup effort continues, and its decommissioning is expected to last decades.

The decision by the 11-member panel followed an appeal of a prosecutor's decision last September to drop the case, citing lack of evidence.

The appeal representing nearly 6,000 people from Fukushima and other parts of Japan argued that prosecutors should investigate again and send the utility executives to court to find out who was responsible for the disaster.

As a result of the panel's decision, prosecutors must reinvestigate and decide whether to indict the executives within three months. A second indictment vote by the panel would force them to go to court.

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