Japan executed three prisoners on death row on Tuesday, the first death sentences imposed since December 2019, said a government source, who defends this controversial punishment in the face of continuing “heinous crimes.”
Japan, with more than 100 convicts on death row, is one of the few developed countries that still applies the death penalty, a measure with wide public support despite criticism from human rights groups.
These are the first executions under the command of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October and won a general election that same month.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said that one of those executed was Yasutaka Fujishiro, 65, who killed her 80-year-old aunt, two cousins and four other people with a hammer and knife in 2004.
The other two were Tomoaki Taknezawa, 54, and her accomplice Mitsunori Onogawa, 44, accused of killing two shop assistants in an arcade in 2003.
In Japan, penalties are usually applied long after sentencing, and always by hanging.
“Whether or not to uphold the death sentence is an important issue that affects the fundamentals of Japan’s criminal justice system,” said Deputy Chief of Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara.
“Given the heinous crimes that continue to occur one after another, it is necessary to execute those whose guilt is extremely grave, making it inappropriate to abolish capital punishment,” he added.
These executions come just days after an arson Friday killed 25 people at a mental clinic in the city of Osaka.
In 2019, the Japanese justice executed 3 prisoners; a year earlier, to 15, thirteen of whom were members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect charged in the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
After long years of waiting, inmates on death row do not know of their execution until hours before it occurs.
Two prisoners have denounced the government for this system, which they call illegal and a cause of psychological anguish.
Both are seeking compensation of nearly $ 200,000 for the stress caused by the uncertainty about the execution date.
In December 2020, the highest Japanese court reversed a decision preventing a new trial against a man considered the longest-serving prisoner on death row, providing new hope for the 85-year-old man.
Iwao Hakamada has been sentenced to death for more than half a century after being convicted in 1968 on charges of robbing and murdering his boss, his wife and his two teenage children.
But he and his supporters say he confessed to the crime only after “brutal” police questioning that would have included beatings, and that the evidence in the case was planted.
Worldwide, at least 483 people were executed last year in 18 countries, according to Amnesty International.
That represents a drop of a quarter from the previous year, and reflects a downward trend since 2015.
However, the figure does not include “thousands” of executions believed to occur in China, which keeps its information secret, as well as North Korea and Vietnam.
Japan and the United States are the only G7 members from industrialized countries that still apply the death penalty.
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