Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Japan: Christmas hangings draw protest

Human rights activists have condemned the execution of four men in Japan on Christmas Day.

The four, including two men over seventy years of age, were hanged just days after Japan's Diet (parliament) closed for the year.

The men hanged on 25 December were:

  • Yoshimitsu Akiyama, 77 (Tokyo Detention Center)
  • Hiroaki Hidaka, 44 (Hiroshima Detention Center
  • Yoshio Fujinami, 75 (Tokyo Detention Center)
  • Michio Fukuoka, 64 (Osaka Detention Center)

Executions in Japan are usually timed to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and minimise publicity.

Under the country's execution procedures, a prisoner can spend decades on death row and be executed with little or no warning they are about to die. Their families are not notified until after the hangings have been carried out.

The executions were condemned in statements issued by the Diet Members' League Against the Death Penalty, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations,Amnesty International Japan, Forum 90 and other NGOs.

AFP reported that the Japan Federation of Bar Associations called for the suspension of the death penalty, saying innocent people could be killed and citing the international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Justice Minister Jinen Nagase defended the hangings, saying the majority of Japanese people supported the death penalty.

"I am aware of various opinions on the issue, but nearly 80% of the people in this country have no objection to the existence of the death penalty," Justice Minister Jinen Nagase said.

"I don't have any plan to change the current justice system."

Protests encouraged

Japanese activists have called for people around the world to send messages of protest against the resumption of the death penalty.

Please send messages of protest to the Ministry of Justice at:

Justified fears

In December 2006, activists and lawyers said they were concerned the government would resume executions after the final parliamentary session for the year.

The country's new Justice Minister Jinen Nagase said after his appointment in September 2006 that he was prepared to sign execution orders, in contrast to his predecessor who did not approve any during his term in office.

Amnesty International and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations urged the government to suspend executions and take steps towards abolition of the death penalty.

Related stories:
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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