The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday rejected a suit against Japanese newspapers for compensation from families of two Japanese military officers who were reported to kill more than 100 Chinese each in a contest in 1937.
In the ruling, the court said it is difficult to judge whether the report was untrue because one of the officers admitted the existence of the contest after the story had been revealed.
The ruling also said the report cannot be seen as an apparent fabrication as the contest has yet to be confirmed.
Still, the plaintiffs have lost the right seeking compensation as the suit is filed after the 20-year limit for claiming damages has expired, the court ruled.
The Mainichi Shimbun reported in 1937 that, on the way to attacking Nanjing with their troops, Toshiaki Mukai and Takeshi Noda were competing for the glory of being the first to have killed 100 Chinese. In the contest, Mukai killed 106 and Noda scored 105.
In addition, the appalling story appeared in a series of articles on the massacre in Nanjing carried by the Asahi Shimbun in 1971. In 1981, the leading daily also published a book, in which the killing spree was mentioned.
They were sentenced to death for the atrocities by a Chinese court martial in December 1947 and executed the following month.
The family members filed the lawsuit with the court in April 2003, arguing that the Mainichi Shimbun had "fabricated" the story and that the Asahi Shimbun continued to publish the book even though the "mass killing had been proven to be a false story." They are seeking a combined 36 million yen in compensation from the two newspapers and the Asahi Shimbun journalist Katsuichi Honda, who was the author of the report and the book.
"Undoubtedly, the killing contest is a historical fact. The plaintiffs intend to deny the Nanjing Massacre, and further, whitewash Japan's aggression of China," Honda said of the case. He also noted that the right-wingers are behind the lawsuit.
(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2005)