The Japanese authorities said on Friday that three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will be charged for failing to take measures to prevent Fukushima nuclear disaster, whose two reactors were melted down after a devastating tsunami in 2011.
The prosecutors twice rejected the similar requests by a Japanese panel saying there is not sufficient evidence to charge former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.
But a group of citizens forced the panel -which is composed of ordinary people- for a second vote, so the indictment became mandatory.
Analysts believe the charges will not bring any conviction, but it is considered as a small victory for the citizens who have pursue the case for getting justice as the effects of the nuclear disaster still harm the people in the area.
“We had given up hope that there would be a criminal trial. We’ve finally gotten this far,” anti-nuclear activist Ruiko Muto told the New York Times.
"We feel a sense of achievement that a criminal case will be held to account for an accident that caused such tremendous damage," he told AFP.
The former executives are accused of failing "to take countermeasures to strengthen the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant despite foreseeing the dangers of a severe nuclear crisis it faced from tsunamis," Reuters reported quoting the panel ruling.
Towns along the northeastern coast of Japan were leveled in a devastating quake and tsunami in March 2011.
That disaster struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 220 km northeast of Tokyo, sparking triple nuclear meltdowns, forcing more than 160,000 residents to flee nearby towns and contaminating water, food and air.
Japan's 48 workable reactors are currently all offline following the disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.
The Shinzo Abe government hopes to restart all nuclear plants to ease energy problem that affects the country's economy. However, the plan has been opposed by a majority of Japanese citizens and many environmental groups.