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Court: Koizumi shrine visits unconstitutional
Updated: 2005-09-30 14:23

It was the second ruling on a lawsuit concerning the shrine in as many days. On Thursday, Tokyo High Court turned down a similar case and declared Koizumi's visits were private, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of worshipping at Yasukuni.

Court: Koizumi shrine visits unconstitutional
Independent lawmaker Kao Chin Su-mei (L), from Taiwan's Atayal tribe, with fellow native Taiwanese, hold up placards in protest outside Osaka High Court September 30, 2005, after the court ruled that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi violated the constitution by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, but rejected their demands for compensation for their mental anguish. The sign reads 'Aboriginal Taiwanese protest'. [Reuters]
Koizumi has gone to the shrine four times since becoming prime minister in April 2001. Fukuoka District Court in southern Japan ruled last year that one of the visits violated the constitution, but the decision lacked the legal force to stop further visits.

The prime minister last went to Yasukuni in January 2004, and speculation has been rampant that he could visit the shrine again before the end of the year. He refuses to discuss his plans, but such a visit is sure to enrage Japan's neighbors. Past visits have contributed to the serious deterioration in ties between Tokyo and Seoul and Beijing.

Japan's 2.5 million war dead are worshipped as deities at Yasukuni, a shrine in Japan's native Shinto religion. They include 14 Class-A war criminals executed after World War II, such as wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

"These visits go against Article 20 of the Japanese constitution, which calls for the separation of the state and religion," the ruling read, according to Nakajima.

In ruling that the visits were public, the court pointed to the fact that Koizumi visited the shrine with a government secretary and used a state car, and also criticized the premier for not clearly denying he was on an official visit.

Nakajima said he was not certain whether the decision would stop Koizumi from going to Yasukuni again. The prime minister could attempt to avoid the constitutional issue by traveling to the shrine in a personal car and then claim to worship at Yasukuni as a private citizen, Nakajima said.

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