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Japan settles with 673 leprosy patients

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TOKYO — The Japanese government reportedly reached a settlement Friday with 673 leprosy patients who were quarantined under a harsh 1953 law that banished them to remote sick wards for decades. It was the third such settlement this month.

The government agreed to pay a total of $69.1 million to two groups of current and former leprosy patients who filed lawsuits in Tokyo and Kumamoto state courts, Kyodo News agency said.

Each individual will receive $64,500 to $113,000, depending on the length of segregation, the agency said.

The suit came after the government announced in May that it would not appeal a landmark ruling ordering it to pay 127 leprosy patients a total of $14.5 million affected by a harsh 1953 law. The court at that time said the government defied the constitution and violated human rights by confining the patients.

Under the law, victims of the disease were forced to live in sanitariums on small islands or deep in the mountainous hinterland. Men were required to be sterilized before marrying. The measure was not repealed by Japan's Parliament until 1996 — years after researchers understood that leprosy was easily treatable and not highly contagious.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later issued a formal apology to leprosy victims exiled to quarantine colonies under the law. Last month, the Japanese Parliament passed a law under which plaintiffs and all quarantined patients would receive compensation.

The government agreed on Tuesday to pay about $36 million to 340 leprosy patients who filed suit in Okayama state, and on July 19 it said it would pay a group of 94 current and former leprosy patients about $9.2 million.