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Japan hangs three death row prisoners in first executions since 2019

Japan hangs three death row prisoners in first executions since 2019
Japan hanged three death row inmates, carrying out its first executions since December 2019 and the first under the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Three death row prisoners were hanged Tuesday in Japan's first executions since late 2019.

Yasutaka Fujishiro, 65, who was convicted of killing seven of his relatives in 2004, was among those executed Tuesday, along with Tomoaki Takanezawa, 54, and Mitsunori Onogawa, 44, who were convicted of killing two employees at separate pachinko parlors in 2003.

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The executions were the first since Dec. 26, 2019, and the first under the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said he gave the order to resume executions "after giving careful considerations again and again."

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Japan executed three death row inmates in 2019 and 15 in 2018, which included 13 from the Aum Shinrikyo cult responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

Fujushiro was sentenced to death in May 2009 and the Supreme Court finalized the decision in 2015, while Takanezwa's sentence was finalized in July 2005 and Onogawa's was settled in June 2009.

Chiara Sangiorgio, death penalty adviser at Amnesty International, condemned the executions as a "damning indictment of this government's lack of respect for the right to life" with the potential to change course under the new administration.

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"After two years without executions, this feels like a missed opportunity for Japan to take long overdue steps to abolish the cruel practice of the death penalty," Sangiorgio said.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara told reporters after the executions that it would not be "appropriate" to abolish Japan's death penalty policy, citing "the current situation in which heinous crimes continue to occur."

"Many Japanese think the death penalty is unavoidable in the case of extremely malicious crimes," Kihara said.

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