Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Japan Executes 4 Prisoners By Hanging

Four Japanese inmates on death row were hanged officials and news reports said, the first executions to take place in Japan since September 2005. A Justice Ministry spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity per ministry policy read a statement confirming that four executions were carried out, but refused to offer any further details. Amnesty International's Japan office issued a statement condemning the executions, noting that they took place with Japan's parliament out of session and without having notified either the inmates or their relatives in advance that the sentences were to be carried out. The statement identified the inmates as Yoshimitsu Akiyama, Yoshio Fujinami, Michio Fukuoka and Hiroaki Hidaka.Akiyama, 77, was the oldest and had been on death row since 1987, according to Kyodo News agency. The death sentences were the first to have been carried out since new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late September and appointed Jinen Nagase as Justice Minister. Nagase's predecessor, Seiken Sugiura, was an opponent of the death penalty who signed no execution orders during his 11 months in office. Executions are rare in Japan. The government is extremely secretive about its death penalty and tends to carry out hangings when parliament is not in session. The government lifted a four-year moratorium on capital punishment in 1993. But until 1998, it refused to publicly acknowledge executions. With the executions, Japan now has 93 inmates on death row, another Justice Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.