TOKYO — The former president of a major Japanese railway was found not guilty Wednesday of negligence in a 2005 crash that killed 107 people in western Japan and raised concerns over pressures to sacrifice safety for punctuality.
Masao Yamazaki was found not guilty by the Kobe District Court, which ruled he could not be held responsible for the speeding commuter train's derailment and crash into an apartment in the city of Amagasaki.
At the time of the accident, Yamazaki was in a managerial position at West Japan Railway Co. that prosecutors considered key in overseeing safety. He became president in 2006, but resigned after the charges were filed in 2009.
The crash remains the worst in Japan since 1963, and led to improvements in braking systems. Some experts said it reflected unreasonable expectations for drivers to keep their trains running on time in a system that is among the world's most punctual.
The train's engineer, who died in the wreck, had been driving over the speed limit on a curve because he was running late.
Prosecutors had sought a three-year sentence for Yamazaki. Three other former company officials also face charges in the case.
"Regardless of the ruling, we bear the responsibility for this accident and will continue to do our best to respond to those who have suffered damage and to promote safety measures," the company's current president, Takayuki Sasaki, said in a statement.