TOKYO : As a Tokyo court pronounced three former executives not guilty in the only criminal trial over the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a woman voice cut through the silence from the gallery : ''Unbelievable''.

More than eight years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, only three people have faced criminal prosecution in relation to the Fukushima disaster, and their acquittal on Thursday left victims angry and distraught.

''This is extremely, extremely frustrating,'' said Ayako Oga, who evacuated to Japan's Niigata region from Fukishama in the wake of the disaster.

''We cannot understand it,'' an elderly woman said, her voice breaking as she addressed the crowd, clutching a microphone.

''In these eight-and-a-half years, so many people were forced to leave their homes - and they remain displaced and unable to decide where to live,'' she said. ''How would you feel if your house, today, were taken away from you?''

No one is officially recorded as having been killed by the nuclear accident itself, but tens of thousands of people ordered to evacuate, with many more fleeing of their own accord, afraid of radiation that rendered whole towns off-limits.

Parts of the region remain uninhabitable, and maybe so forever. Even where decontamination  has been completed and evacuation orders lifted, many residents have been reluctant to return.

''I couldn't be more angry,'' a man who evacuated from Fukushima told supporters at a rally after the verdict was announced.

''We can't go back to our normal lives,'' he added.

Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, said he was astonished by the decision.

''I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,'' he said. ''This shows Japanese courts don't stand for people's interest. This can't be true.''

''This court case is about how the state should protect human dignity. It's about our dignity,'' said 69-year old Ryoichi Suenaga.

When the tsunami hit, his mother was living in Futaba town, just two kilometres from the plant, and was forced to evacuate - an event he believes triggered a rapid decline in her health.

She had been living independently but moved into a home after the disaster and died two years later.

''We must fight all the way through no matter what,'' he said. [AFP]


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