Japan executes three death-row inmates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 4:47pm

Japan said it hanged a child killer and two  other convicted murderers on Thursday, its first executions since a  conservative government swept to power in landslide elections in December.

Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, killed a seven-year-old girl and sent a photograph of  the dead body to her mother in 2004, while Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, killed one  man and injured seven other people in a knifing spree outside a shopping mall  in a Tokyo suburb in 2008.

He also murdered another man in a separate incident the same year.

The third was Keiki Muto, 62, who strangled a bar owner for money in 2002.

"I ordered the executions after giving careful consideration to the  matter,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told a press briefing in Tokyo, as  he confirmed the trio were hanged early Thursday morning.

“These were extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their  precious lives for very selfish reasons.”

Child killer Kobayashi admitted the abduction, sexual assault and murder of  the seven-year-old whose body was found in a gutter in western Japan.

The executions were Japan’s first since two death-row inmates were hanged  in September under a centre-left Democratic Party of Japan government. The number of death-row inmates in Japan now stands at 134.

Japan did not execute any condemned inmates in 2011, the first full year in  nearly two decades without an execution amid muted debate on the rights and  wrongs of a policy that enjoys wide public support.

These were extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives for very selfish reasons

But in March last year, Tokyo resumed its use of capital punishment with an  unapologetic government minister signing death warrants for three multiple  murderers.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised  democracy to carry out capital punishment, a practice that has led to repeated  protests from European governments and human rights groups.

International advocacy groups say the system is cruel because death row  inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement  and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

On Thursday, Amnesty International’s Japan branch said it “strongly  condemns” Thursday’s executions.

“The Japanese government cannot be excused from abiding by international  human rights standards by citing how the public are feeling,” the group said in  a Japanese language statement.