Japan hangs two for murder, first executions in 2019
TOKYO — Japan on Friday hanged two men convicted of murder, the justice ministry said, the first executions this year after 15 death row inmates were executed in 2018.
With more than 100 inmates on death row, Japan is one of the few developed nations to retain the death penalty, and public support for it remains high despite international criticism, including from rights groups.
“I ordered the executions after very careful consideration,” Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita told reporters.
The executed were 64-year-old Koichi Shoji and 50-year-old Yasunori Suzuki, a ministry official told AFP.
Shoji was convicted of killing two women and stealing cash in 2001 near Tokyo while Suzuki was convicting of murdering three women on the streets in southern Japan and stealing cash in 2004, according to media reports.
“These are extremely brutal cases in which they claimed lives of victims who had done nothing wrong for their selfish reasons,” the minister said.
Japan hanged 15 inmates in 2018, matching a 2008 record since the nation started publicly announcing executions in 1998.
Among them were a total of 13 people who belonged to the cult that carried out the fatal 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and other crimes.
The Aum Shinrikyo cult members — including former guru Shoko Asahara — were executed in two stages in July 2018, drawing a line under the horrific attack which shocked the world and prompted national soul-searching over the group and its crimes.
The mass executions sparked some criticism from rights groups, including Amnesty International.
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