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Japanese court upholds ruling rejecting Chinese forced labor suit




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Thursday, June 28, 2007
TOKYO (AP)


A Japanese court upheld a decision Thursday rejecting a slave-labor lawsuit by a group of Chinese who sought compensation from the government and six companies for allegedly forcing them to work in mines and factories during World War II.

Judge Koki Ito of the Sapporo High Court rejected the plaintiffs' appeal of a 2004 lower bench decision, court spokesman Takami Nii said.

The plaintiffs _ who include 42 Chinese workers, 15 of whom have died _ plan to appeal Thursday's decision to the Supreme Court, Kyodo News agency reported.

The lawsuit was filed in 1999 against the government and six companies _ Mitsui Mining Co., Sumitomo Coal Mining Co., Nippon Steel Corporation, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, Chizaki Kogyo Co. and Kumagai Gumi Co.

The plaintiffs claimed they were forced to labor in the mines and factories of the companies during the early 1940s, and demanded apologies and 860 million yen (US$6.98 million; 5.19 million) in damages.

"The process of detaining them, transferring them to Japan and forcing them to work was illegal," Kyodo quoted Judge Ito as ruling.

But the plaintiffs lost their right to seek redress from Japan following the 1972 signing of a Joint Communique restoring bilateral ties between the countries, Ito ruled, according to Kyodo.

In the communique, Beijing abandoned its right to claim war reparations from Japan. The Supreme Court used that as grounds to rule in April that individual Chinese citizens lost the right to claim redress.

Critics argue that the communique only affects the government, not individuals, but the Supreme Court ruling largely sets the tone for lower court decisions and could affect pending lawsuits.

Japan's military shipped hundreds of thousands of men from China and other Asian countries to Japan to work in coal mines and factories during the war to make up for a domestic labor shortage. It also forced women into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.



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