TOKYO — A court on Thursday acquitted three former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives who had been accused of criminal negligence for their roles in the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The three executives — Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro — were the only people charged over the handling of the disaster, which forced hundreds of thousands in northeastern Japan to evacuate their homes to escape nuclear fallout that left areas surrounding the reactor uninhabitable.
Thousands of people were killed by the two geological disasters. But another 44 died in the chaos surrounding the evacuation of the area around the nuclear plant, prosecutors said. They attributed the deaths to negligence on the part of the executives, who they said had failed to properly plan for the possibility of a nuclear accident in spite of repeated warnings. None of the deaths were attributed to radiation-related illnesses.
The three executives argued that they could not have anticipated the damage caused by the unprecedented disaster.
Mr. Katsumata was chairman of Tokyo Electric when the accident occurred. Mr. Muto and Mr. Takekuro formerly ran the utility’s nuclear division.