Japan executes three murderers in 60s


TOKYO, AFP

Japan on Thursday hanged three convicted murderers in their 60s as the country stepped up the pace of executions, officials and activists said.

A justice ministry spokeswoman said the prison system hanged three criminals but declined to provide any further details, in line with standard procedure in Japan.

Amnesty International and media reports said the three were convicted murderers aged between 60 and 69.

Japan is the only major industrialized nation other than the United States to practice the death penalty.

Despite enjoying one of the world’s lowest crime rates, opinion polls show Japanese overwhelmingly support capital punishment amid growing public concern about violence.

The executions bring to 10 the number of inmates hanged since December, when Japan ended a 15-month halt in executions which was due to a previous justice minister’s opposition to the death penalty.

The current justice minister, Jinen Nagase, took office last year when conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power and may lose his job on Monday when the embattled premier reshuffles his cabinet.

Amnesty International, which keeps records of death-row inmates and stays in contact with their families, identified the executed inmates as Hifumi Takezawa, 69, Kozo Segawa, 63, and Yoshio Iwamoto, 60.

Makoto Teranaka, the secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, said the three inmates, unlike many on death row, had not protested their death sentences after they were finalized.

“These three inmates were the ones we were worried about,” Teranaka told AFP.

“It’s a grave problem for Japan to maintain the death penalty despite rising opposition to it all over the world,” he said. “The government’s targeting of people in weak positions such as these three inmates is also problematic.”