- Former chairman, VPs indicted by Tokyo court for their role in 2011 meltdown
- Fukushima residents had previously tried twice to hold the executives to account.
Former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, along with two former executive vice presidents, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto, were indicted for professional negligence to the Tokyo district court.
The accident, which occurred when a tsunami hit the coastal plant in March 2011, caused a meltdown and widespread radiation leaks in the northeastern Japanese province.
Acting prosecutors -- lawyers chosen by the prosecution commission -- allege that the three had not fulfilled their responsibility to prevent the accident, which resulted in the exposure of Fukushima residents to radiation, the injury of 13 workers at the plant, and the death of 44 patients, evacuated from the immediate vicinity of the plant to hospitals in surrounding areas.
It is claimed by the prosecutors that the patients' deaths, who were elderly or gravely ill, were linked to their move in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown as they were evacuated, but that connection has not been formally confirmed.
The result will be seen as a victory for the 14,716 Fukushima residents who initially filed the complaint in June 2012. Since then it has been turned down twice by prosecutors. The group took the rare step to push the indictment by bringing it to a prosecution committee on appeal.
"No one took responsibility although an irrevocable nuclear accident happened," Miwa Chiwaki, secretary general of Fukushima Complainants Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, told CNN.
"Victims were spared and nuclear plant restart has been promoted in this irresponsible society. Clarifying the criminal responsibility of those who caused the accident will lead us to prevent the same tragedy from happening again and to create a society to live without fear of death and threat to our health. We will not give up."
More than 160,000 people were evacuated from the area near the Fukushima meltdown
, the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.