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Japanese teachers lose damages suit over anthem

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) A group of Japanese teachers who had been forced to undergo ''retraining'' after refusing to stand and sing the national anthem at school events lost a suit for compensation today.

The 130 teachers had claimed 10,000 yen per head from the Tokyo government, saying their right to freedom of thought and belief had been infringed when they were forced to listen to a lecture aimed at persuading them to change their attitude, Kyodo news agency said.

''All the plaintiffs' demands were turned down,'' said a spokeswoman at Tokyo District Court.

The Tokyo government argued that the programme was intended to train teachers to ''perform school events properly'' rather than interfering with their freedom of thought, Kyodo said.

Japan's Kimigayo national anthem and Hinomaru national flag are shunned by some, especially the left-leaning teachers' union, as symbols of the country's past military aggression. Both flag and anthem have been in popular use since the 19th century, including before and during World War Two, although they were only officially recognised in 1999.

Court rulings have been divided on whether local governments have the right to punish staff at public schools who refuse to stand and sing the anthem at graduation ceremonies and other formal events.

Last September, a different panel of judges at the Tokyo District Court ruled in favour of 400 teachers who objected to singing the anthem. But more recent suits, including one by a music teacher who refused to accompany the anthem, have been rejected.

Tokyo's nationalist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, who won a third term of office in April, has defended forced anthem-singing, saying that teachers in city-run schools are obliged to do what the government tells them.

REUTERS GT BD1434

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