JAPAN HANGS TWO MORE ON DEATH ROW
October 28, 2008: Japan hanged two more death-row inmates as the country steps up executions to a pace unseen in three decades, despite an ongoing UN review of its rights record.
The country, which has one of the world's lowest crime rates, is the only major industrial nation other than the United States to use the death penalty. Its use is widely supported among the Japanese public.
Today's executions were the first since conservative Prime Minister Taro Aso took office last month.
"The executions were carried out after we repeatedly gave full, cautious and appropriate consideration," Justice Minister Eisuke Mori told reporters.
Today's hangings brought to 15 the number of people executed this year, the highest total since 1975 when Japanese authorities hanged 17 people.
The executed inmates were Michitoshi Kuma, 70, and Masahiro Takashio, 55, the justice ministry said.
Kuma was convicted of kidnapping and killing two girls, both seven, in 1992 in western Fukuoka prefecture. Takashio stabbed an elderly woman and her daughter to death in northern Fukushima prefecture in 2004 to get money.
Mori denied that Japan was trying to speed up the pace of executions.
"I did not take the timing or space (in between executions) into account at all," he said.
Following the latest executions, Japan has 101 inmates on death row.
Under Japanese law, the justice minister must sign off on every execution. At the time of his appointment as justice minister, Mori said he would "solemnly carry out" his duties on the death penalty.
Japan had a de facto moratorium on executions for 15 months until 2006 because the then justice minister, Seiken Sugiura, said the death penalty went against his Buddhist beliefs.
Last year, Japan executed nine convicted killers. (Sources: AFP, 28/10/2008)