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Japan's Top Court Rejects Appeals Against PM's War Shrine Visit
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Japan's Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down two appeals against rulings on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

The top court backed earlier lower-court rulings which had rejected charges that Koizumi's controversial visits violate Japan's pacifist constitution. Claims for damages for mental distress were also thrown out.

The two lawsuits, filed by more than 100 people comprising families of the war dead and religious figures from Chiba prefecture and the Shikoku region, were rejected because they were simple claims for legal violations and were not eligible for appeal at the Supreme Court, Kyodo News quoted the justices of the Supreme Court as saying.

The accusers maintain that Koizumi's visits were done in his official capacity and violated the constitutional provision on separation of religion and state. They say that the premier's activities brought them psychological stress because their freedom of faith and thought was threatened.

Last year, both the Tokyo High Court and the Takamatsu High Court upheld lower court decisions which rejected the claims but avoided ruling on whether the premier's visits were constitutional or not.

Koizumi's annual visits to the shrine since he took power in 2001, where 14 Class-A war criminals are honored along with more than 2 million Japanese war dead, have infuriated Japan's Asian neighbors, especially China and South Korea, who suffered atrocities from Japanese aggression before and during WWII.

(Xinhua News Agency June 28, 2006)

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