Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Executions in Japan despite appeal plans

Japan's justice minister Kunio Hatoyama has now approved the execution of thirteen prisoners, with three more hangings carried out yesterday.

Three men were hanged in Tokyo and Osaka for murders committed up to 23 years ago.

Tsutomu Miyazaki, 45, and Shinji Mutsuda, 37, were hanged in Tokyo, and Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, was executed in Osaka.

Miyazaki has been infamous in Japan for nearly 20 years after he was arrested and charged with the violent murders of four young girls in 1988 and 1989. Agence France-Presse reported this week that he "mutilated the bodies of the victims, slept next to the corpses and drank their blood".

Mutsuda was convicted of murder and robbery, and Yamasaki was convicted of murdering two women in 1985 and 1990 for insurance money.

A question of sanity
The question of whether Miyazaki was sane enough to be held criminally responsible for the killings was central to his various court appearances.

Over nearly 20 years it took his case to move through the legal process, Miyazaki said a "rat man" was responsible for the killings, referring to a cartoon character he drew.

His lawyers argued he was suffering from mental illness, an argument reinforced by psychiatric assessments.

Mainichi Japan reported that he repeated incomprehensible statements during his court hearings.

"I feel as if I committed the crimes in my dreams," he said in one hearing.

"I was scared because a 'rat person' appeared. My alter ego suddenly appeared and committed the acts," he said at another time.

It said various psychiatric evaluations had returned different assessments of his mental state.

He was variously diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, a multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia, with different assessments of the level to which he could be held responsible.

Appeal underway
Miyazaki was executed despite the fact that his lawyer was preparing to apply for a retrial.

"I had been preparing to file a request for a retrial over the past few months," Maiko Tagusari said, according to a second report by Mainichi Japan.

"I strongly protested (to the ministry) for carrying out the execution even though they knew about my plans.

"What I had feared actually happened."

She said she wrote to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama in late May asking him not to order the execution of Miyazaki.

Political support
India's Economic Times reported that Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said after the executions he supported the use of the death penalty.

"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.

However he appeared to acknowledge the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty, adding: "But we also have to keep an eye on trends of world opinion."

Related stories:
Japan: Execution possible despite mental doubts -- 10 June, 2008
Executions in Japan -- 2006 - 2008 -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Minister steps up rate of hangings -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Sixteen hanged in thirteen months -- 04 February, 2008
Japan finally names three executed -- 09 December, 2007
Minister wants ‘tranquil’ killing: Japan -- 29 October, 2007
Japan: New minister will approve hangings -- 04 September, 2007
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006

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