|Death Chamber at Tokyo's Detention Center|
TOKYO — Japan executed a mobster and a killer arsonist on Friday, bringing to 11 the total number of death sentences carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012.
The executions came days before Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet amid speculation that he will appoint a new justice minister, whose approval is needed for any sentence to be carried out.
“I ordered the executions after careful consideration,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters.
The executed men were both multiple killers.
Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a gang boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza grouping, was convicted of shooting three people dead between 2001 and 2005, the justice ministry said.
Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, a 56-year-old former taxi driver, was convicted of killing five people and seriously injuring four others in 2001 by setting fire to a consumer loan office, in Aomori, northern Japan.
Surveys have shown the death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.
The government did not execute anyone in 2011, the first full year in nearly two decades without an execution amid muted debate on the rights and wrongs of the practice.
But in March 2012 it abruptly resumed its use of capital punishment, dispatching three multiple murderers.
International advocacy groups say Japan’s system is cruel because 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.
There have been a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice exposed in recent years, including the case of Iwao Hakamada, who was released from jail in March, aged 78, after decades on death row for a multiple murder he did not commit.
Hakamada, who was believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, was the victim of a flawed investigation in which evidence was fabricated.
Japan now has 125 inmates on death row, according to local media.
Source: Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2014
Secret execution as authorities ignore calls for reform
at Tokyo Detention Center
Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged in Japan early on Friday morning
The execution of 2 men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.
Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged early on Friday morning. Kobayashi was executed at Sendai detention centre and Takamizawa at Tokyo detention centre. Both had been convicted of murder.
"It is chilling that the Japanese authorities continue to send people to the gallows despite serious questions over the use of the death penalty in the country," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
A lack of adequate legal safeguards for people facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized. This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel from the time of arrest, a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases and detention in prolonged solitary confinement.
Several prisoners suffering from mental illness are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.
"This state-sanctioned killing is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment. The government should halt all future executions as a 1st step towards abolition," said Hiroka Shoji.
The latest executions bring the total executed in Japan in 2014 to 3. Since Prime Minister Abe's government took office in December 2012 11 people have now been hanged, whilst a total of 127 people remain on death row.
"Human rights are being side-lined under Prime Minister Abe's government. The past 2 years has been marked by a series of regressive steps, including the refusal to act on UN bodies' calls to address human rights violations," said Hiroka Shoji.
Serious flaws over the use of the death penalty in Japan were underlined in March, when a court ordered the temporary release of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than four decades on death row after an unfair trial.
Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence.
Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
Source: Amnesty International, August 29, 2014
Japan hangs 2 death-row inmates, 10th, 11th executions under Abe gov't
Japan hanged 2 death-row inmates Friday, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said, the 10th and 11th executions since the December 2012 launch of the government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The 2 were Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, who was convicted of killing 5 people in a 2001 attack on an office of moneylender Takefuji Corp., and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a former gangster convicted of killing 3.
Tanigaki told a press conference that a justice minister needs to abide by the law, and Japan maintains the death penalty, in answer to a question about the U.N. Commission on Human Rights which urged Japan in July to review its capital punishment system.
Asked why he issued the execution order only a few days before a Cabinet reshuffle scheduled for next Wednesday, Tanigaki said he is required to perform his duties as justice minister.
He has previously stated that the public supports capital punishment and there is no need to review the death penalty system.
The number of death-row inmates executed under Tanigaki is now the 2nd most under the orders of a single justice minister since 1993 when Japan resumed executions. 13 were hanged under orders from Kunio Hatoyama, the justice minister from 2007 to 2008.
Kobayashi, a former taxi driver executed at the Sendai detention house in northeastern Japan, was sentenced to death for robbery and murder after setting fire to a Takefuji office in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, in May 2001 when his demand for a loan was rejected.
Takefuji later went under in 2010 and its moneylending business was taken over by Nihon Hoshou Co.
The Aomori District Court sentenced Kobayashi to death in February 2003, a ruling upheld by the Sendai High Court in February 2004 and by the Supreme Court in March 2007.
Kobayashi, who denied any intention to kill, filed pleas for a retrial 3 times seeking the application of robbery resulting in death, not murder, but his pleas were rejected. His conviction stood as of Aug. 6 this year.
Takamizawa, who was executed at the Tokyo detention house, was sentenced to death for murdering the head of a rival gang in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture, and two others between 2001 and 2005.
In October 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Takamizawa, who was head of a gang affiliated with Japan's biggest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi.
Anti-death penalty organizations, such as Amnesty International Japan, criticized the executions, saying the Justice Ministry hanged the 2 death-row inmates ahead of the planned Cabinet reshuffle next week.
Hideki Wakabayashi, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, told a news conference the timing could indicate the ministry was motivated to execute the 2 men ahead of the possible replacement of Tanigaki as justice minister next week.
Another group which seeks Japan's ratification of an international pact on the abolition of the death penalty, said the 2 executed men were considering seeking retrials and the Justice Ministry deprived them of their right to seek a retrial.
Source: Kyodo News International, August 29, 2014