Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Japan: Record toll with new hangings

Japan has executed fifteen people this year, the highest rate in more than thirty years, after it hanged two convicted murderers today.

The latest executions were the first approved by new justice minister Eisuke Mori, who only took office last month.

The justice ministry this morning confirmed that Michitoshi Kuma, 70, was hanged in the Fukuoka detention centre, and Masahiro Takashio, 55, at the Sendai detention centre, according to a report in Japan Today.

"The executions were carried out after we repeatedly gave full, cautious and appropriate consideration," AFP newsagency said Mori told reporters.

Japan Today reported that Kuma was sentenced to death for murdering two seven year-old girls, who he kidnapped on their way to school and strangled in southern Japan in February 1992.

The report said Takashio was convicted of the stabbing murder of a 55 year-old woman and her 83 year-old mother before he robbed them of 50,000 yen.

Sharp increase prompts concern
Human rights activists and lawyers have been alarmed by the rapid increase in executions in Japan since December 2006, with 28 people being hanged in less than two years.

There have also been indications that a succession of justice ministers wanted to reduce the delay between the finalisation of a death sentence and the prisoner's execution.

The last year when there are thought to have been more executions was in 1975, when 17 people were hanged.

Japan now has 101 prisoners on death row.

Related stories:
Japan: New minister faces next hanging -- 14 October 2008
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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