Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda ordered the executions, the 18th and 19th since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012, carried out without prior notice to family and lawyers. Japan’s Catholic bishops are a leading voice against the death penalty. Amnesty International complains that one of the prisoners had asked for a retrial. The other had given up on his defence.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan hanged two death-row inmates yesterday, including a man convicted of multiple murders who had reportedly been seeking a retrial, the Justice Ministry announced.
Masakatsu Nishikawa, 61, one of the two executed prisoners, had filed an appeal for a retrial. He was convicted of killing four female bar managers in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, in 1991.
The other executed inmate was Koichi Sumida, 34, who was sentenced to death in February 2013 by the Okayama District Court for killing his former colleague, Misa Kato, 27, a temporary staff worker, on 30 September 2011.
Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda ordered the executions, which were the 18th and 19th carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012. Neither family nor lawyers were informed beforehand.
The previous execution, the first ordered by Kaneda, was carried out last November, when a man was hanged for killing two women in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Amnesty International protested against the execution of the two inmates, saying that in Nishikawa’s case, his request for retrial should have been heeded.
Addressing Sumida’s situation, Amnesty pointed out that his dropping the case automatically led to the ruling.
The Catholic Church continues to be a leading voice against the death penalty. “All Japanese bishops are for the abolition of the death penalty. There are no differences of opinion,” had said Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, archbishop of Nagasaki, in 2012 on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan.
“Even if the person who is killed is a murderer, his death is another murder, by the state this time,” he added. "Humanity must renew its sense of living together. We must all consider ourselves children of God again”.
It is estimated that more than a hundred people are currently on death row in Japan.