July 9 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday his administration will not appeal a recent court ruling requiring the government to pay damages to relatives of Japanese who were quarantined with leprosy decades ago.
A Japanese district court ordered the government last month to pay $3.4 million to more than 500 family members of leprosy patients quarantined between 1907 and 1996, when Japan required patients with leprosy to be segregated in sanitariums. Some thought Japan would appeal the ruling before the Friday deadline.
"We have decided not to appeal," Abe said Tuesday. "We must not prolong the hardship of family members who have gone through something indescribable. Though it's a rare move, we've decided not to appeal against the ruling."
Health minister Takumi Nemoto said the government will start start putting together redress measures for the affected families.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is now curable but for many years the disease caused hardships for many Japanese families. The could ruled June 28 the state acted illegally with the quarantines and failed end segregation in 1960.
Citizen Harumi Oku, 72, called the decision "historic." She said as a child she was separated from her mother, who had leprosy.
"My relationship with my mother cannot be restored but I am so glad that I plucked up my courage and raised my voice," Oku said.
Former leprosy patients have already received compensation but the payments to family members is a significant step. The segregation policy made it difficult for family members to go to school, find jobs or marry.