Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Japan: New minister faces next hanging

Amnesty International is concerned that Makino Tadashi may be the next death row prisoner executed in Japan.

That would make him the first person put to death by Japan's new minister of justice, Eisuke Mori, who said he would follow the pattern established by his predecessors, and the 27th person executed in less than two years.

Mori, who took office on 24 September, said in an interview last week [1 Oct] that death sentences should ideally be carried out within six months of being finalised.

"We should respect judges' decisions" when they hand down death sentences, he said according to The Japan Times.

Like one of his predecessors, Kunio Hatoyama, he suggested there should be a more routine system that depended less on the approval of the minister at the time.

The Japan Times quoted Mori as saying it may be better to time executions according to a standard rule because "it's not advisable that the number of executions varies depending on who is justice minister".

There has been an alarming increase in the pace of executions in Japan since December 2006.

The three previous justice ministers approved a total of 26 executions in 22 months, including 13 put to death in one year when Hatoyama was minister.

Next in line?
Amnesty International said Makino Tadashi was at "imminent risk" of execution after his latest appeal for clemency was rejected on 30 September.

Makino Tadashi was sentenced to death in 1990 for murdering a woman and injuring two others.

He had previously served 16 and a half years in prison for a murder and robbery committed when he was 19 years old.

According to Amnesty International, his lawyers argued unsuccessfully during his trial in 1994 that "he lacked adequate mental capacity and could not be responsible for his crimes".

A series of appeals and legal challenges have all been rejected.

"Appeals for clemency typically take years to process, however this latest rejection took only 3 months," the organisation said in an urgent action appeal.

Related stories:
Japan: New minister sends three to death -- 12 September 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
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August 2006

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