Japan executes three prisoners

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Japan executes three prisoners

Post  Jennie on Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:06 am

(Source: guardian.co.uk)

Tuesday June 17 2008

Japan today executed three men in defiance of international pressure to abolish the death penalty, bringing the number of hangings this year to 10.

The justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama, has presided over 13 executions since he came to office last August, despite a non-binding UN resolution passed late last year calling on member states to introduce a moratorium.

"I ordered their executions because the cases were of indescribable cruelty," Hatoyama told reporters. "We are pursuing executions in order to achieve justice and protect the rule of law."

Despite widespread public support for the death penalty, Hatoyama is coming under mounting pressure to introduce a moratorium from dozens of fellow MPs, the European Union and human rights groups.

"We condemn today's executions," Amnesty International's chief representative for Japan, Makoto Teranaka, told the Guardian. "Japan is increasingly isolated in the international community and failing to fulfil the requirements of a civilized society. Other countries are abolishing the death penalty, or using it less."

Having carried out just one execution in 2005, Japan operated a de facto moratorium for 15 months until 2006 after the justice minister at the time, Seiken Sugiura, refused to sign execution orders because he said the death penalty conflicted with his Buddhist beliefs.

Japan has since executed 23 people, including nine last year - the highest number since 1976.

The prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, said today he would not bow to international pressure just weeks before the G8 leaders are due to meet in Japan, the only industrialised country apart from the US to retain capital punishment.

"In Japan, the majority view is that capital punishment should be maintained, so I feel no need to change what we have continued doing until now," he said in an interview with news agencies from G8 countries.

In an attempt to deflect criticism of the secrecy surrounding executions, the justice ministry last December began making the names of hanged men public, along with details of their crimes. Previously it had leaked information to individual journalists.

Japanese death row inmates, however, are informed of their execution only moments before it is carried out, and their relatives are not notified until afterwards.

The men executed today included Tsutomu Miyazaki, 45, who was convicted of murdering four girls aged four to seven in the late 1980s. He was hanged at a detention centre in Tokyo, the justice ministry said in a statement.

Miyazaki's crimes provoked widespread revulsion after it emerged that he had slept next to his victims' corpses and drank their blood, left the remains of one on her parents' doorstep and eaten the hands of another.

Police also found about thousands of violent pornographic videos and comics at his home in Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo.

Also hanged in Tokyo was Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, who murdered two people for their insurance money. Shinji Mutsuda, 37, who packed the remains of his two victims into a concrete-filled box and threw them into the sea, was executed in Osaka, the ministry said.

Today's hangings come days after a man armed with a knife killed seven people and injured 10 others on a street in Tokyo's Akihabara district.

Police said today they had arrested four people who allegedly threatened to carry out copycat killings in posts sent to online message boards.

"I'm sick of it all," one suspect, an unemployed 29-year-old man, wrote on the popular 2-Channel site, before threatening to "kill 100 people" in the busy Ikebukuro district of Tokyo.

Tomohiro Kato, the suspect in the Akihabara attack, had posted similar threats from his mobile phone before embarking on his stabbing spree.

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