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Minamata victims file compensation suit

Fifty Minamata disease patients filed a lawsuit in the Kumamoto District Court on October 3 demanding that the state, Kumamoto Prefecture, and chemical maker Chisso Corp. pay each of them 850 million yen in compensation.

The plaintiffs are members of a group of about 1,100 residents in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures who are seeking official recognition as victims of Minamata disease.

In October 2004, the Supreme Court held the state and Kumamoto prefectural governments responsible for failing to prevent the spread of Minamata disease (organic mercury poisoning) and acknowledged the laxity of government standards for certifying Minamata disease sufferers. However, the Environmental Ministry has failed to revise the standards and left out new applicants.

Plaintiffs' representative Oishi Toshio said, "Because of the government's failure to compensate us properly, we had no choice but to bring the case to court. We will continue to fight until all patients are compensated."

Lawyer Sonoda Shoto said, "It is regrettable that victims still have to go to court almost 50 years after Minamata disease was officially recognized as a disease caused by pollution. We hope to represent nearly 1,000 plaintiffs by the end of this year."

Minamata disease was caused by organic mercury in waste water discharged from a Chisso Corp. plant into Minamata Bay during the 1950s and 60s. It has killed hundreds of people, disabled thousands, and produced birth defects in Kumamoto's Minamata City. -- Akahata, October 4, 2005

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