Japan hangs 3, defends 'capital punishment', calls it necessary for 'atrocious crimes'

WION Web Team
Tokyo, Japan Published: Dec 22, 2021, 03:33 PM(IST)

In the G7 group of developed countries, only Japan and the United States still use the death penalty. Photograph:( Others )

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There are currently more than 100 death row inmates in Japan, most of them accused of mass murder. In most cases, executions by hanging are carried out many years after sentencing

Japanese authorities executed three prisoners on Tuesday, the first executions in two years. The government justified the executions by saying "atrocious crimes" require the continuation of capital punishment.

Despite international criticism, including from human rights groups, Japan remains one of the few developed countries that still practice capital punishment.

There are currently more than 100 death row inmates in Japan, most of them accused of mass murder. In most cases, executions by hanging are carried out many years after sentencing.

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Yasutaka Fujishiro, 65, was one of the three executed on Tuesday. He had killed his 80-year-old aunt, two cousins and four others in 2004 with a hammer and knife.

Two others were Tomoaki Takanezawa, 54, who killed two clerks at an arcade game parlour in 2003, and his accomplice Mitsunori Onogawa, 44.

It was the first execution under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October.

"Whether to keep the death sentence or not is an important issue that concerns the foundation of Japan's criminal justice system," deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara said.

"Given that atrocious crimes keep occurring one after another, it is necessary to execute those whose guilt is extremely grave so it is inappropriate to abolish capital punishment."

Tadashi Ara, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said members "strongly protest" Tuesday's executions.

He called on the government to "abolish capital punishment and stop all executions until it is abolished".

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According to Amnesty International, at least 483 people were executed worldwide last year in 18 countries.

This represents a drop of about a quarter from the previous year, which fits with a downward trend since 2015.

However, this figure does not include the "thousands" of executions believed to have taken place in China, North Korea, and Vietnam, which keep such data secret.

In the G7 group of developed countries, only Japan and the United States still use the death penalty.

In 2019, Japan executed three death row inmates and 15 in 2018 -- including 13 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

It is not uncommon for authorities to notify inmates just hours before execution.

The government is being sued by two prisoners for the system, which they claim is illegal and causes psychological distress.

Additionally, the pair is seeking $22 million for the distress caused by not knowing when their execution will take place.

Watch | Japan defends capital punishment to combat 'Atrocious Crimes' as it executes 3 death row inmates

In December 2020, Japan's top court overturned a ruling prohibiting the retrial of a man regarded as the world's longest-serving death row prisoner, giving the 85-year-old new hope.

After being convicted in 1968 of robbing and killing his boss, the man's wife, and their two teenage children, Iwao Hakamada has been living under the threat of death for more than half a century.

He and his supporters contend that he confessed only after an allegedly brutal police interrogation, which included beatings, and that evidence was planted in the case.

(With inputs from agencies)

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