Friday, 12 September 2008

Japan: New minister sends three to death

Japan's new justice minister has taken time out of the country's current political turmoil to sign death warrants for three men who were hanged yesterday [11 September].

Okiharu Yasuoka approved the execution of three men, all aged in their 60s, just weeks after he was reappointed minister in August.

Yasuoka denied the executions were linked to the expected resignation later this month of the cabinet of prime minister Yasuo Fukuda.

"I screened the cases carefully and strictly, and carried out [the decision] firmly as the person responsible for protecting law and order," Yasuoka said at a media conference announcing the executions.

"The decision wasn't timed."

The justice ministry yesterday confirmed the three men were: Yoshiyuki Mantani, 68, Mineteru Yamamoto, 68 and Isamu Hirano, 61. The AFP newsagency reported they were hanged in Osaka and Tokyo for crimes including murder.

According to the Mainichi Daily News, Hirano was executed just 23 months after his death sentence was confirmed, when the penalty is rarely carried out within two years.

It also said Yamamoto's sentence was the first handed down by a system designed to speed up trials, with only three hearings before the case closed.

Killing again
When Yasuoka served a previous period as justice minister, between July and December 2000, he also reportedly ordered three executions.

Executions in Japan were resumed in 1993, after a moratorium of nearly three and four months. Mainichi reported there have been 73 executions in total since then.

Related stories:
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
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006

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