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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Japan court rejects germ warfare case
Supporters of the plaintiffs chant slogans outside Tokyo District Court in Tokyo
The case was brought by 180 Chinese
A Japanese court has rejected claims for compensation brought by 180 Chinese people who claim they were victims of Japan's biological warfare unit in China in the 1940s.

The group had sued the Japanese Government, demanding an apology for its use of germ warfare against Chinese citizens and ten million yen ($84,000) each in compensation.

But the three judges did acknowledge the facts of the case, the first time a Japanese court has admitted Japan conducted biological warfare during World War II.

The court ruled that under international law, individuals had no right to seek compensation from a state.

A spokesperson for the group expressed outrage at the decision.

The group's lawyers said they were encouraged that the judges had accepted the existence of the biological warfare unit and the acts it had performed.

Lawyers said the plaintiffs were likely to appeal.

Horrifying details

Evidence was given at the trial that 3,000 people were killed by plague and cholera cultivated by Japanese military scientists during World War II.

For five years, the Tokyo district court heard harrowing testimony about Japan's Unit 731, which developed biological weapons for use against Chinese civilians and carried out experiments and vivisections on them.

Unit 731 site in China
Unit 731's activities were covered up following World War II
Witnesses told how Japanese aircraft sprayed a mixture of fleas and wheat grain over villagers in eastern China in 1940 and 1941.

Shortly afterwards there were outbreaks of bubonic plague in which hundreds died.

A former member of Unit 731 told how he had worked to cultivate plague, cholera and anthrax.

He said he had helped infect Chinese prisoners with the germs and had assisted surgeons who then cut them up alive.

The plaintiffs wanted the Japanese Government to acknowledge the existence of the unit and to give details of its activities.

'Cover-up'

Unit 731's role was covered up after the war and none of its members were charged, following an agreement with the occupying American forces.

Japanese courts normally back the government's position, that all claims were settled in bilateral peace treaties signed after the end of the war.

In recent years the courts have rejected similar claims by slave labourers conscripted by the Japanese military, and by the so called "comfort women" who were forced to serve in army brothels.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"There was an angry reaction outside the court"
See also:

31 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
29 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
08 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
06 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
01 Feb 02 | Correspondent
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