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Former Tepco chairman, two others to be indicted for Fukushima

[TOKYO] The former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co, Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two other executives will be indicted over the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant as early as Friday, according to national broadcaster NHK.

The executives will be charged with professional negligence, according to the broadcaster. This will be the first time a court will examine if the failure to prevent the 2011 nuclear disaster constituted a crime.

A group of five independent attorneys, appointed by the Tokyo District Court, will proceed with the indictment. The move followed an inquest last year that recommended the three be tried after Tokyo prosecutors initially declined to proceed with the case. The attorneys tasked with bringing the indictment weren't immediately available for comment. Attempts to reach the three former executives through Tepco were unsuccessful.

Katsumata stepped down as chairman of Tepco, as the company is known, in June 2012.

A record magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the Fukushima plant on March 11, 2011, knocking out power to cooling systems and leading to three reactor-core meltdowns. About 160,000 people were forced to evacuate because of radiation leaks, the fallout of which has left some areas in the region uninhabitable for decades.

Earlier this week, Tepco admitted that it failed to follow damage assessment guidelines, and should have announced a meltdown days after the accident instead of months later.