Executions: December 19, 2017

Tatsuhiko Seki (age 44)
Kiyoshi Matsui (age 69)

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TOKYO - Japan hanged two death-row inmates Tuesday morning, including a 44-year-old man who killed four people when he was a minor, the Justice Ministry said.

Teruhiko Seki became the second inmate to be hanged for a crime committed as a minor in the first such execution in 20 years, after Norio Nagayama, who killed four people when he was 19, was executed in 1997.

Seki was 19 when he killed a 42-year-old corporate executive, his wife, 36, their 4-year-old daughter and the executive's 83-year-old mother, while injuring the only survivor, a daughter who was 15, in 1992. He also stole 340,000 yen from their house in Chiba Prefecture.

The other executed inmate Kiyoshi Matsui, a 69-year-old former plumber, killed his girlfriend and her parents in Gunma Prefecture in 1994.

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa ordered the executions, the first since July.

Both Seki and Matsui had submitted requests for retrials, according to the ministry.

"These crimes were very heinous and utterly deplorable for the victims and their families. The death penalties were finalized following adequate trials in the courts. I gave orders to execute them after careful consideration," said Kamikawa in a press conference.

Japan's capital punishment policy has drawn international criticism, while the Japan Federation of Bar Associations has called for it to be abolished by 2020, demanding lifetime imprisonment instead.

Nagayama's case created the so-called Nagayama standards, which take into account factors such as the number of victims, brutality and social impact of the crimes. The standards have been used in determining whether to apply the death sentence in murder cases.

"A minor is less able to judge things than adults and easily affected by family and social circumstances. It is not appropriate to put responsibilities on individual minors and they should not be executed," said Yuji Ogawara of the bar association in charge of abolition of the death penalty.

Debate on abolishing the death penalty remains sluggish in Japan, though most developed countries have already done away with it.

The bar association adopted a proposal stating for the first time that it will work to abolish capital punishment at a meeting in October 2016, but met strong opposition from lawyers who support victims of murder cases.

More than 100 lawyers across the country this year sent an open letter to the chairman of the association, insisting the adopted proposal would cause confusion among lawyer members as there are arguments both for and against it.

Hidemichi Morosawa, a former principal of Tokiwa University, said it is "not appropriate" to avoid the death penalty based on "an unscientific reason that young people can restore their lives." Capital punishment is inevitable, considering victims' feelings and the effects of the crimes on society, he said.

Kamikawa has been reluctant to change the policy. She said in a press conference on her inauguration as justice minister in August, "I would like to carefully and strictly deal (with executions) in line with laws and with respect for judgments of the courts."

She ordered the execution of one inmate when she filled the position of justice minister for about a year from October 2014.

In July this year, Kamikawa's predecessor Katsutoshi Kaneda gave orders to hang two male inmates.

Kyodo News had previously withheld the name of Teruhiko Seki as he was a minor when the crimes were committed but named him after his execution.

Source: Japan Today, December 19, 2017

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Japan executes 2, including man who killed when he was a minor


Two convicted murderers, including one who killed four people when he was a minor, were executed on Dec. 19, according to the Justice Ministry.

Capital punishment was carried out for Teruhiko Seki, 44, who murdered four family members in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture in 1992 when he was 19 years old, and Kiyoshi Matsui, 69, who murdered his girlfriend and her parents in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture in 1994.

The death sentences for Seki and Matsui had been finalized, but both were still seeking retrials.

“The two cases were extremely cruel because the convicts took away precious lives for self-centered reasons,” Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told reporters on Dec. 19. “With careful consideration, I ordered the executions.”

Seki is the first inmate on death row for a crime committed as a minor to be executed since Norio Nagayama was hanged in August 1997.

The executions on Dec. 19 were the first since July, when Katsutoshi Kaneda was justice minister.

Kamikawa has now signed the papers for three executions, including one in June 2015 when she held the Cabinet post for the first time.

Since December 2012, when Shinzo Abe started his second stint as prime minister, 21 inmates have been put to death.

According to the finalized ruling, Seki in March 1992 entered the house of a company executive in Ichikawa for the purpose of robbery. He used a knife and other methods to murder the executive, his mother, wife and second daughter. The eldest daughter was stabbed and injured in the attack.

During his trial, Seki’s attorney cited Seki’s age and the spirit of rehabilitation under the Juvenile Law to argue against imposing the death sentence.

However, the Chiba District Court sentenced Seki to death, saying that capital punishment was acceptable and inevitable considering the gravity of his crime.

The Tokyo High Court and the Supreme Court both upheld Seki’s death sentence.

Matsui was convicted of murder and attempted murder for killing his girlfriend and her parents with a hammer in February 1994.

In September 1999, the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal and finalized the death sentence.

Both Seki and Matsui had applied for retrials.

The Justice Ministry had refrained from executing inmates seeking retrial. But in July, Kaneda ordered the first execution of a retrial-seeking inmate since December 1999.

According to the ministry, there are now 122 inmates on death row in Japan.

Citizens groups and others demanding the abolition of capital punishment said five of those death-row inmates committed their crimes when they were minors.

Three were involved in a murder spree in Osaka, Aichi and other prefectures in 1994.

Another condemned inmate killed a woman and her baby in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999.

The other one was convicted of murdering two women and a man in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture in 2010.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, R. Komatsu, December 19, 2017

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Japan hangs two inmates, including one who sought retrial

KYODO

Executions JUL 13, 2017


Japan hanged two death-row inmates Thursday morning, the Justice Ministry said, including a man convicted of multiple murders who had reportedly been seeking a retrial.

Masakatsu Nishikawa, one of the two executed inmates, had filed a plea for a retrial over the murders of four women in the 1990s. Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of murdering four bar managers in western Japan in 1991.

The other executed inmate was Koichi Sumida, 34, who was found guilty of killing a female colleague in 2011 in Okayama Prefecture.

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.

The previous execution, the first ordered by Kaneda, was in November 2016, when a man was hanged for killing two women in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kaneda told a news conference following the 2016 execution that the punishment was for “an extremely cruel case in which the precious lives of the victims were taken for selfish purposes. I gave the order after careful consideration.”

In October 2016, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a declaration calling for the abolition of capital punishment and the introduction of life sentences without parole by 2020.

Kaneda has expressed opposition to the idea, saying, “A majority of Japanese citizens believe the death penalty is inevitable against heinous crimes.”

According to human rights organization Amnesty International, 141 countries legally or effectively abolished capital punishment as of the end of 2016. In 2016, 23 countries or regions, including Japan, executed inmates.


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Two convicted killers executed, including one seeking a retrial

By RYUJIRO KOMATSU/ Staff Writer

July 13, 2017 at 16:35 JST

A four-time murderer who was seeking a retrial and a killer of a former female colleague were executed on July 13, the Justice Ministry said.

Masakatsu Nishikawa, 61, was hanged at the Osaka Detention House, while Koichi Sumida, 34, was put to death at the Hiroshima Detention House, the ministry said.

They are the first death sentences carried out by the Justice Ministry in eight months.

Nishikawa was convicted of murdering four female “snack” bar operators in Hyogo, Shimane and Kyoto prefectures, and assaulting a female teller of “rakugo” comic stories in Osaka Prefecture, over a one-month period from 1991 to 1992.

Nishikawa was sentenced to death by a district court and a high court, and the Supreme Court rejected his appeal in June 2005.

But Nishikawa repeatedly requested a retrial after his death sentence was finalized.

His execution is the first for a death-row inmate seeking a retrial since December 1999.

The Justice Ministry has tended to refrain from imposing death penalties on inmates who are seeking retrials. But some ministry officials believe that some convicts are repeatedly asking for retrials just to delay their executions, sources said.

Kaoru Yamaguchi, an official of Amnesty International Japan, criticized the government for executing the two men without disclosing sufficient information.

“The Japanese government says executions are possible even when convicts are seeking retrials, but countries that believe opportunities for a retrial should be guaranteed under international human rights laws outnumber those that think otherwise,” Yamaguchi said.

In autumn 2016, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a declaration calling for the abolishment of capital punishment.

That declaration came after Iwao Hakamada was released in March 2014 after spending more than three decades on death row.

He had been convicted of murdering four members of a family in 1966. But a court ordered a retrial after the possibility was raised that the conviction was based on faked evidence.

Japan now has 125 inmates whose death sentences have been finalized. Of them, 92 are seeking retrials.

Sumida was convicted of murdering a former female colleague, who was working as a dispatch worker, in Okayama in September 2011.

Sumida was sentenced to death in February 2013 by a panel of citizen judges at the Okayama District Court.

He filed an appeal to a higher court but withdrew it in March that year.

An execution is rare for a convict who killed only one person.

Sumida was the third person to be executed after being handed the death sentence in a trial involving citizen judges.

Nineteen inmates have been executed in 11 implementations since the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December 2012.

Under Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, three executions have been carried out in two rounds.

Kaneda said on July 13 that the government does not take the stance of delaying an execution because a retrial is being sought.

“The death sentences were finalized after both cases were fully deliberated at courts,” he said. “I ordered the executions after carefully examining the cases.”



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