Sunday, 29 April 2007

Japan hangs three 'to keep numbers down'

Japan hanged three men on Friday, bringing to seven the number of prisoners it has executed in the past four months.

The latest executions were reportedly carried out now to keep the country's death row population below 100.

Kosaku Nata , Yoshikatsu Oda and Masahiro Tanaka were hanged on 27 April in detention centres in Osaka, Fukuoka and Tokyo.

In an unusual step, the men were executed while Japan's parliament, the Diet, was in session. Executions in Japan are usually timed to avoid parliamentary debate or scrutiny.

According to a report by the Mainichi Daily News, government sources said Justice Minister Nagase ordered the executions at this time because the number of death row inmates had risen sharply to over 100.

Japan's Justice Ministry said the hangings reduced the number of inmates on death row to 99.

The Asahi Shumbun reported that Kosaku Nata, 56, was convicted of a 1983 robbery and murder in Hyogo Prefecture, in which he stole a health insurance card and other items and murdered a colleague's wife and her child.

Yoshikatsu Oda, 59, was convicted of murdering a man and a woman for insurance money in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1990.

Masahiro Tanaka, 42, who went by the family name of Miyashita, was convicted of stabbing to death a female sales assistant and stealing 50,000 yen from a pornography shop in Kagawa Prefecture in 1984.

He was also convicted of three other murders in Tokyo and Tokushima and Kanagawa prefectures, carried out in 1991 and earlier.

Four men, including two over seventy years of age, were hanged on 25 December, 2006.

'Against global trend'
The latest group of executions drew condemnation from human rights and legal organisations opposed to the death penalty.

Amnesty International said the men were hanged on the same day the human rights organisation released statistics indicating a worldwide decline in the number of executions and encouraging progress towards abolition.

According to Amnesty International's figures, the number of reported executions worldwide fell from 2,148 in 2005, to 1,591 in 2006.

Related stories:
Japan: Christmas hangings draw protest -- 03 January, 2007
Executions may resume in Japan -- 21 December, 2006
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006
Japan: Lonely wait for the noose -- 5 April 2006
Japan's death row hell -- 3 March 2006

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