Japan hanged two convicted killers, including a man who burned six women to death, in the country’s first executions in a year, the government said.
The justice ministry said Kazuo Shinozawa, 59, was hanged at the Tokyo Detention Centre today. Shinozawa set fire to a jewellery shop in 2000, burning six women to death.
The second death row inmate, Hidenori Ogata, 33, was hanged at the Tokyo Detention Centre. He stabbed a man and a woman to death in 2003.
Japan, along with the United States, is one of the few industrialised countries that still has capital punishment.
There is little public outcry against the death penalty in Japan.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, formerly a member of a group of politicians opposed to the death penalty, witnessed the executions and said afterward that she wanted a new study group to spur debate on the punishment, including whether it should be abolished in Japan.
“Witnessing the executions with my own eyes made me think deeply about the death penalty,” Ms Chiba told a news conference.
Ms Chiba left the anti-execution group to take the top ministry job under the government of the Democratic Party of Japan after it swept to power in September, but she has continued to express reservations about the practice.
Japan’s media are not allowed to cover executions. But following today’s executions, Ms Chiba said that should change.
Criminals can be left on death row for years in Japan, and executions – all carried out by hanging – are highly secretive.
Inmates do not know when they will be executed, while lawyers and family are only told after the fact.
Japan has 107 death row inmates, the ministry said.