TOKYO – Japan executed on Tuesday two inmates, sentenced to death for multiple murders in the 1990s, taking the total number of executions carried out during conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term to 21, the justice ministry said.
The executions of the inmates are the first since July 13, when two men were executed, also for murder.
The first of the death-row inmates executed on Tuesday, Teruhiko Seki, 44, was sentenced for killing a four-member family in Ichikawa in 1992, when he was still a minor.
In addition to these murders, Seki also committed several other crimes, including rapes and robberies, in which several people were injured, according to information provided by the justice ministry.
The other prisoner, Kiyoshi Matsui, 69, was given the death penalty for killing his girlfriend and her parents in February 1994 with a hammer in Gunma prefecture.
Both death row inmates were executed in Tokyo, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said in a press conference, describing the cases as “extremely cruel.”
Following Tuesday’s executions, 123 prisoners remain condemned to death in Japan pending the enforcement of their sentences, 94 of whom have requested a review of their sentences, Kamikawa said.
The justice minister is responsible for ordering executions in Japan, the only industrialized and democratic country along with the United States that maintains the death penalty, and where legislation stipulates that convicted persons must be hanged and informed only hours before execution.
This practice has been strongly criticized by organizations like Amnesty International, which says the inmates face an extremely painful mental burden as many of them are kept in solitary confinement before the execution, sometimes for decades, without knowing when they will be executed.
The Japanese Federation of Lawyers issued a statement against the death penalty in 2016 and asked for it to be replaced by life imprisonment by 2020.
In this regard, the Japanese justice minister said that the death penalty is a matter on which each country adopts its own policy and defended the current situation saying the majority of the Japanese people are in favor of maintaining it.