A place setting for Vice President Dick Cheney is seen Feb. 21, 2007 at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3 Japan death row inmates executed
TOKYO, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Three Japanese death row inmates were hanged Thursday, the first such executions under the country’s new government, a source told Kyodo News.
Details were not immediately available. The new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December.
Japan’s Justice Ministry said at the end of last year, 133 inmates were on death row, the highest number since 1949. There were no executions in 2011.
Kyodo said a total of nine people were hanged during the 39-month rule of the previous government. The last executions were in September 2012 when two death row inmates were hanged.
Japan is one of the 32 nations that have the death penalty. U.N. figures show about 150 nations have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
Japan executions resume with three hangings
Hopes dashed of reprieve under Shinzo Abe’s government with first sentences carried out since September 2012
21 February 2013
Japan has carried out three executions – the first since the country’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was elected last December, and a sign that Tokyo will defy international pressure to abolish the death penalty.
The justice ministry said the executions were carried out in the early hours of Thursday in three different locations. One of the condemned men, Kaoru Kobayashi, had been sentenced to death for the abduction, sexual assault and murder of a seven-year-old schoolgirl in 2004. He sent a photograph of the murdered girl to her mother.
The executions, the first since September 2012, could signal a return to more regular hangings under the current justice minister, Sadakazu Tanigaki.
“I ordered the executions after giving them careful consideration,” Tanigaki told reporters. “These were extremely cruel cases in which the victims had their precious lives taken away for very selfish reasons.”
Amnesty International Japan condemned the executions. “The Japanese government cannot be excused from abiding by international human rights standards, just by citing opinion among the public,” it said in a statement. Opinion polls put support for capital punishment among the Japanese at about 80%.
Earlier this year Tanigaki indicated he would have no hesitation in signing execution orders; some previous holders of the post had refused to approve them, leading to a de facto moratorium.
“I will have to do what needs to be done according to the rule of law,” he told journalists, adding that the secrecy surrounding hangings would continue. Inmates are given very little notice before they are led to the gallows and their families are informed only after the executions have taken place.
“Even death row inmates have guarantees of privacy and we have to consider the feelings of their relatives,” Tanigaki said. “I don’t think it is necessarily a good idea to release more information.”
At the end of last year Japan had 133 inmates on death row, the highest number since records were first kept in 1949. They include Shoko Asahara, leader of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in which 13 people died and thousands were made ill.
The previous government, led by the left-of centre Democratic party of Japan (DPJ), executed nine people during its three years and three months in office. That included an 18-month period from July 2010 in which no hangings took place. In the three years to 2008 there were 28 executions under LDP administrations.
The DPJ raised hopes among abolitionists in 2010 when it established a panel to look into Japan’s use of capital punishment but the body was disbanded without reaching a conclusion in January 2012.
Japan, which along with the US is the only major industrialised country to retain the death penalty, has come under mounting pressure to abandon it.
In December the UN adopted a resolution calling on Japan and other countries to impose a moratorium on capital punishment and to be more transparent about executions.
In a recent open letter campaigners called on Tanigaki to “immediately introduce a moratorium on executions and initiate a national public debate aimed at promoting full abolition of the death penalty in Japan“.
A 2008 report by Amnesty was highly critical of Japan’s treatment of its death row inmates, claiming they were being driven insane and exposed to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment.
Three death-row inmates hanged in first executions under LDP
Japan hanged three convicted murderers on Feb. 21 in the first executions since the conservative administration led by Shinzo Abe swept to power in December.
Making the announcement, a grim-faced Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said he gave careful consideration to signing the death warrants but declined to explain why the three were singled out.
“I cannot discuss individual cases,” he said.
The executions, the first since September when two people were hanged under the previous administration headed by the Democratic Party of Japan, leave 134 inmates on death row.
Tanigaki made it clear when he took office that he favors the death penalty.
“There are various reasons I feel this way,” he said. “One reason is out of consideration for the bereaved families. It is an extremely grave sentence that deprives a person of his or her life. I’m convinced anew that a justice minister should fully consider a court’s ruling and then decide whether to carry out the sentence.”
The condemned were hanged at separate locations.
Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, was sentenced to death for the abduction and slaying of a 7-year-old girl in Nara in November 2004, and hanged in Osaka.
Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a 72-year-old man in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, on March 19, 2008. Four days later, he also fatally stabbed a 27-year-old man and injured seven others in the same city. He was hanged in Tokyo.
Keiki Kano, 62, was sentenced to death for slaying a 61-year-old bar madam in Nagoya in March 2002 and stealing money from her. Kano was hanged in Nagoya.
Although Kobayashi’s lawyers had appealed the death sentence handed down by a lower court, his sentence was finalized after he withdrew his appeal.
Kobayashi in 2007 fought his decision to withdraw the appeal, saying it was not valid. But the Supreme Court decided not to review the case in December 2009.
Kanagawa also had his sentence finalized after he withdrew an appeal against a lower court ruling filed by his lawyers.
Kano was handed a life sentence by a lower court, but was sentenced to death on appeal to a high court. His sentence was finalized by the Supreme Court, which noted he had previously served prison time in a murder case.
Under the previous LDP administration, a death row inmate was executed every two to three months on average.
The pace accelerated under justice ministers Jinen Nagase and Kunio Hatoyama.
Ten people were executed during the 11 months Nagase was in office, while Hatoyama signed execution orders for 13 death row inmates during the 11 months he served in the post.
No hangings were carried out in 2011, the first 12-month period in 19 years without an execution. The DPJ had replaced the LDP as the governing party two years earlier and called for a nationwide debate on the merits of the death penalty.
Nine people were executed between September 2009 and December 2012, when the DPJ held power.
A government poll released in 2010 found that 85.6 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the death penalty.
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