by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 17, 2015
A Japanese court has ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay 5.1 million yen ($41,500) in damages for firing a French news announcer who fled Japan during the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The Tokyo District Court on Monday voided NHK's decision to end the contract of Emmanuelle Bodin, who had worked at NHK as an announcer on radio programmes in French before her evacuation.
"The plaintiff should not be strongly blamed even if she fled the country putting her safety before work," the court said in its ruling.
It noted that the embassies of France and other countries in Tokyo advised their nationals to evacuate following the crisis.
A quake-sparked tsunami swamped cooling systems and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, northeast of Tokyo, prompting many foreign residents and visitors to flee the capital or even the country.
Some Japanese residents of Tokyo and its environs also took refuge in western and southern Japan during the crisis, which sparked widespread fears of contamination and has led to suspicions that the government hid information about the impact on human health.
The nuclear disaster, the world's worst since Chernobyl, displaced tens of thousands of people and rendered tracts of land uninhabitable, possibly for decades.
According to the ruling, Bodin left Japan on March 15 shortly after the meltdown but later informed NHK she could resume working from March 30. NHK, however, had already ended her contract, the ruling said.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Bodin, who had sought more than 15.7 million yen, said that she felt her "honour is restored" after the three-year trial and thanked the court for its decision.
"It is a big victory," she said. "Finally, David won against Goliath."
The court in its decision, however, also said that Bodin's action had "caused a certain confusion" to NHK.
NHK, roughly Japan's equivalent of the BBC, can appeal the ruling but it was not initially clear if it would.
An NHK spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that it "will carefully read the verdict and discuss how to deal with the matter".
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