Court refuses poison gas payout

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A Tokyo court rejected compensation claims yesterday by a group of Chinese plaintiffs who suffered a death and ill health when construction workers broke open several barrels of poison gas abandoned by Japanese troops in the Second World War.

The plaintiffs – 43 people injured and five relatives of one who died in the 2003 accident in Qiqihar city, north-eastern China – demanded the Japanese government pay ¥1.43bn (£11m) in damages.

Japan's government was not responsible for the accident, the court said, noting, however, that residents faced imminent danger from chemical weapons left behind in the area. The plaintiffs have complained of painful blisters, weakened vision, coughs and chronic fatigue.

In Beijing, Kang Jian, a lawyer who fights for the rights of Chinese forced to work as slave laborers and "comfort women" for Japan before and during the war, said the Japanese court had no reason to reject the compensation request.

"I think it helps the Japanese government to shirk its responsibility," Mr Kang said.

Construction workers were digging up the ground when they found several barrels leaking liquid and tried to open them. Workers and nearby residents were among those injured. The victim who died was a construction worker.