毎日新聞 2012年3月29日 9時51分（最終更新 3月29日 14時05分）
Japan hangs 3 death row inmates in 1st executions in 20 months
(Mainichi Japan) March 29, 2012
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan hanged three death row inmates Thursday in the first executions in 20 months, by order of Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, the minister said.
It is the second time executions have been performed under the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which came to power in September 2009. In July 2010, then Justice Minister Keiko Chiba ordered the hanging of two inmates.
The executions took place at detention houses in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. The three were Yasuaki Uwabe, 48, Tomoyuki Furusawa, 46, and Yasutoshi Matsuda, 44, according to the ministry.
Uwabe, a former transport worker, was convicted of killing five people and injuring 10 others in a 1999 rampage at JR Shimonoseki Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan.
Furusawa was found guilty of murdering the parents of his estranged wife and a stepson in 2002 in Yokohama, and Matsuda of robbing and killing two women in 2001 in Miyazaki Prefecture.
The death sentences for the three were finalized between 2007 and 2008.
Ogawa told a press conference, which lasted only 10 minutes, ''Punitive authority rests with the general public. The death penalty is also supported under the lay judge system, which is supposed to reflect public opinions.''
He said there was ''no special reason'' why the three inmates were chosen for execution and that the government will consider future executions of inmates individually. The minister signed the execution order on Tuesday, according to sources close to him.
The former legal professional who has worked as a judge, prosecutor and lawyer said after becoming justice minister in January that he would order the executions of death row inmates because capital punishment is ''backed by the Japanese people.''
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura refrained from commenting on the latest executions, merely saying Ogawa's views represent the basic policy of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet on the death penalty.
In 2010, Chiba in a rare move attended the executions at the Tokyo Detention House.
In order to stir public debate over the death penalty, Chiba also allowed the news media to visit the death chamber at the detention house one month later. Death chambers in Japan had previously been closed to the media. They remain closed to the public.
Chiba told reporters Thursday she cannot comment on the decision by the incumbent justice minister and expressed hope that a national debate on the death penalty will be held and more information on capital punishment will be disclosed.
After the latest executions, the number of death row inmates in Japan stands at 132, according to the ministry.
Japan is one of the few advanced countries to retain the death penalty. According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, 141 countries have abolished capital punishment by law or in practice, while 57 countries still maintain it.
A Japanese government survey showed in February 2010 that a record 85.6 percent of respondents said that continuing capital punishment is ''unavoidable.''
Noboru Nagafuji, 80, who was seriously injured by Uwabe in the 1999 random attack in Shimonoseki, said the execution of the attacker was ''long delayed but a matter of course,'' adding that he still suffers from wounds.
A daughter in her 50s of Kazuyuki Eto, 79, who was killed by Uwabe, said she ''never sought the death sentence'' for the culprit, but believes it is ''natural'' that a person who killed others will be executed. ''Even though my father will not come back, the execution would help me get past'' the loss of her family, she said.
Those critical of capital punishment rapped the government over Thursday's executions.
Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the lawyers' federation, said the executions were ''very regrettable'' and that he ''strongly protests'' against them.
''The resumption of executions could stifle a social debate on whether to abolish capital punishment. The government should suspend executions, disclose more information and stir a national discussion on the death penalty,'' he said.
Amnesty International Japan also issued a protest to the Japanese government over the hangings of the three, saying it ''represents the state intention to stick to executions.''
The group said capital punishment ''violates the right (of death row inmates) to live'' and that the Japanese law justifying the death sentence should be amended if it runs counter to international human rights standards.
Koichi Kikuta, professor emeritus of criminology at Meiji University, said he doubts Ogawa had enough time since becoming minister to examine the records of death row inmates and that the minister ''made a big mistake.'' ''It is arrogant of him to believe he has carried out his duty as justice minister'' by ordering the executions, Kikuta said.
Takeshi Tsuchimoto, former prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, said although he believes Japan should retain capital punishment, the government should disclose more information on the living conditions of inmates until they are executed.
Three hanged; executions are first since '10
Justice chief justifies action based on duty, public opinion
Friday, March 30, 2012
By MINORU MATSUTANI
Three inmates were hanged Thursday, in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, in the country's first executions since July 2010.
Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, the first of the past six justice ministers to tacitly support capital punishment, signed off on the three executions Thursday morning.
"I just performed my duty as a justice minister. The right to punish criminals rests on Japanese nationals, and a government poll shows the majority of Japanese support the death sentence," Ogawa said at a news conference. "Also, lay judge trials maintain the death sentence as a punishment, and lay judges are from the general public."
The number of inmates whose death sentence has been finalized fell to 132 from 135 as a result of Thursday's executions.
Ogawa disclosed their names and crimes in a practice started in December 2007 when Kunio Hatoyama was justice minister.
The executions came soon after Ogawa earlier this month put an end to government-led discussions on capital punishment by lawyers, prosecutors, professors, relatives of murder victims and others involved in the issue.
The discussions were initiated by capital punishment foe Keiko Chiba when she was justice minister. The four succeeding justice ministers maintained the discussions.
Ogawa said he terminated them because capital punishment opponents and supporters "will never reach a compromise" and the discussions will "never yield any conclusions."
The number of executions vary greatly between justice ministers. Two prisoners were hanged in 2010, seven in 2009, 15 in 2008, nine in 2007 and four in 2006.
Japan is one of 58 countries, including the U.S., China, India and Iran, where executions take place; 104 nations, including all of the European countries, Canada and Australia, either have abolished capital punishment or have kept the death sentence on the books but have not conducted executions for years, according to Amnesty International.
The three people executed Thursday were Yasutoshi Matsuda, 44, Tomoyuki Furusawa, 46, and Yasuaki Uwabe, 48.
Matsuda, hanged at the Fukuoka Detention House, was convicted of killing and robbing two women in Miyazaki Prefecture, in November and December 2001, for money he was going to spend for his own pleasure.
Furusawa, hanged at the Tokyo Detention House, was convicted of murdering his 12-year-old stepson and his estranged wife's parents in July 2002. He was also found guilty of confining his wife in Yokohama the month before out of suspicion that she was having an affair.
Uwabe, hanged at the Hiroshima Detention House, was convicted of running over seven people with a car, two of whom died, and slashing seven other people with a knife, killing three, at JR Shimonoseki Station in, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in September 1999.
Opponents of capital punishment rapped the government over the executions.
Koichi Kikuta, a professor emeritus of criminology at Meiji University, said he doubts Ogawa had enough time after becoming minister to examine the inmates' records, adding the minister "made a big mistake."
"It is arrogant of him to believe he has carried out his duty as justice minister" by ordering the executions, Kikuta said.
Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a former prosecutor in the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, said that although he believes Japan should retain capital punishment, the government should disclose more information on the living conditions on death row and what goes on in death chambers to deepen public understanding.
Information from Kyodo added
1st executions in 20 months carried out / Ogawa orders deaths of 3 murderers
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Justice Ministry announced Thursday that three death-row murder convicts were executed in the morning at the detention houses where they had been held in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, the first executions since two inmates were executed 20 months ago on July 28, 2010.
It was the second time for executions to be carried out under a government led by the Democratic Party of Japan and the first since Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa assumed the post in January.
They were conducted during a Diet session, also a rare move.
The latest executions leave the number of death-row inmates at 132.
After the government changeover in 2009 from the coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party to the DPJ-led coalition, the number of executions drastically diminished. The 2011 figure was zero, the first time that had happened in 19 years.
At a press conference after Thursday's executions, Ogawa explained why he ordered them, saying: "Punitive power belongs to the people. In trials held under the lay judge system that was introduced to reflect their opinions, executions have been supported. I thought I should perform this duty even though some people oppose [capital punishment]."
The three death-row convicts were Yasuaki Uwabe, 48; Tomoyuki Furusawa, 46; and Yasutoshi Matsuda, 44. They were executed at the Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka detention houses, respectively.
Uwabe went on a homicidal rampage at JR Shimonoseki Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture in September 1999. He drove a rental car into the station building, hitting some people with the vehicle and attacking others with a knife. He killed five people and injured 10.
Furusawa sneaked into his wife's parents' condominium in Tsuzuki Ward, Yokohama, in July 2002 to abduct his wife, who wanted to divorce him. In addition to the kidnapping, he stabbed three people to death: his wife's father, 71; her mother, 63; and her 12-year-old son from a previous marriage.
Matsuda killed a 53-year-old female bar operator in November 2001 and an 82-year-old woman who operated a general store the next month, both in Miyazaki Prefecture. He also stole a total of about 650,000 yen from them.
A crisis of public trust in system
It is likely that Ogawa ordered the executions only three months after he assumed the justice minister's post due to a sense of danger that the people's trust in the nation's system of capital punishment might be lost if no executions were carried out for a period longer than 20 months.
The number of death-row convicts was 135 as of Wednesday. After the latest executions conducted under then Justice Minister Keiko Chiba in July 2010, the number hit its highest level since the end of World War II and continued increasing.
Although many death sentences have been given under the lay judge system, four justice ministers in the DPJ government did not order any executions.
Many Justice Ministry officials had been concerned that if no executions were carried out despite the lay judges' decisions as a result of their anguished deliberations, people would not be convinced of the seriousness of the system, a high-ranking ministry official said.
Chiba, who advocates abolishing the death penalty, allowed journalists to tour an execution site when she was justice minister.
Also, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations changed the name of a panel on capital punishment from "the committee to achieve suspension of executions" to "the committee to discuss the abolition of the death penalty."
With these moves amid a global trend toward abolishing capital punishment, some people say that discussions on eliminating the death penalty will be soon be fully under way in Japan.
However, Ogawa vowed to resume executions at his inaugural press conference in January, saying, "[It's] a very difficult duty, but I'll do it."
In March, he finished a ministerial study session to discuss the death penalty system, including the idea of its abolition, apparently to pave the way to the resumption of executions.
At Thursday's press conference, Ogawa mentioned support for the system in public opinion polls and the death sentences handed down under the lay judge system as two reasons for his order to the executions.
It seems his decision to conduct the executions within the current fiscal year, which ends Saturday, was intended to convince the public.
(Mar. 30, 2012)