A former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, apologized to victims of the 2011 nuclear disaster but would not acknowledge responsibility.

"I deeply apologize to those who died, their bereaved families, injured people, local people and society at large," Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, said Oct. 30 during the 33rd hearing of a trial at the Tokyo District Court of three former TEPCO executives accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury as a result of the disaster.

The trio were indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee, comprising ordinary citizens, seeking accountability for the nuclear disaster.

Katsumata, who also served as president, is on trial with former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72.

Katsumata, who has pleaded innocent, was asked by his lawyer, "Does the president directly grasp each job (at the company)?" to which the defendant replied, "I believe that's almost impossible."

Referring to his position as chairman, Katsumata said the job did not entail day-to-day business operations.

"My direct contact with employees decreased and my external activities increased," he added.

Lawyers assigned the role of prosecutors said the three defendants gave the go-ahead in 2008 for anti-tsunami measures to be implemented based on the government's "long-term assessment" of offshore earthquake probability.

However, despite being told that a quake-triggered tsunami could reach as high as 15.7 meters, they put off doing anything for fear it would adversely affect the company's bottom line.

The lawyers cited two key meetings as evidence that Katsumata was in a position to predict a massive tsunami could strike the plant.

Referring to one meeting in February 2008, when Katsumata was president, a subordinate testified that anti-tsunami measures based on the government assessment had been approved.

Referring to another meeting, held in February 2009, when Katsumata was chairman, a director in charge of anti-quake measures said, "Some people said that tsunami of about 14 meters high could strike (following a megaquake)."

(This article was written by Mikiharu Sugiura and Chikako Kawahara.)