Japanese court orders payment of benefits for atomic bomb survivors

A Japanese court ordered Hiroshima's local government Wednesday to pay tens of thousands of dollars (euros) in medical backpayments to three Japanese who survived the 1945 U.S. atomic bomb attack and now live in Brazil.

Overturning a 2004 ruling, the Hiroshima High Court ordered the local government to pay 2.91 million yen (US$24,667; Ђ 20,601) in unpaid medical expenses to Shoji Mukai, Teruo Hosokawa and Mitsugu Horioka, court spokesman, Makoto Nagasawa, said.

The government recognizes about 285,600 survivors of the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including an estimated 5,000 living overseas.

Officially recognized survivors are eligible for monthly allowances of up to 137,000 yen (US$1,161; Ђ 969.67), including medical checkups and funeral costs. A landmark court ruling in 2002 gave survivors living outside of Japan the same rights to benefits as those who remained in the country.

The three men, now in their 70s, moved to Brazil in the 1950s and 60s under a government emigration program.

They returned intermittantly to Japan at which time they were able to receive the medical benefits, but when they returned back to Brazil, the payments stopped.

In 2002, they filed a lawsuit claiming they had been unjustly deprived because they moved abroad and demanded backpayments for the years they had been away.

The Hiroshima District Court, in its 2004 ruling, said the three could no longer demand the 2.9 million yen they were seeking as a five-year statute of limitations on survivors' right to claim unpaid medical expenses had run out, reports the AP.

I.L.