Justice minister blasts Asahi newspaper for calling him 'Grim Reaper'

Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama criticized the Asahi Shimbun newspaper for dubbing him the "Grim Reaper" after he ordered the execution of 13 death row inmates since he assumed office.

"It's an insult to those who were executed. They were not taken away by the Reaper at all," said Hatoyama during a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Friday.

Hatoyama lambasted the Asahi Shimbun for a column carried in its evening edition on Wednesday, one day after serial girl killer Tsutomu Miyazaki and two other death row inmates were executed.

"Permanent executioner -- Justice Minister Hatoyama. He gives the green light to executions every two months and has achieved a new record. He's also known as the Grim Reaper," read the article.

Tuesday's executions brought to 13 the number of death row inmates to be hanged under Hatoyama, who assumed the post in August last year. The figure is the highest since the nation resumed executions in March 1993.

"The media observes (the number of executions I ordered) as something like a baseball player's batting average, but I'm fulfilling my responsibility as justice minister in a somber manner in order to bring about justice," said Hatoyama.

"Ordering executions that claim human lives is hard to stomach for me, but I ordered them for the sake of social justice. Miyazaki, the death row inmate who caused horrendous incidents, also has human rights and dignity. It was a ridiculous sentence," said Hatoyama, referring to the article.

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Justice chief protests being called 'specter of death' in newspaper column


Friday 20th June, 2008
TOKYO —

Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama lodged a protest Friday against a column in a newspaper that described him as ‘‘the specter of death’’ for authorizing with ‘‘pride and responsibility’’ a record high number of executions as the chief of the ministry.

‘‘I would like to sincerely protest this ill-advised writing,’’ Hatoyama said at a news conference, referring to the ‘‘Soryushi’’ regular front-page column of curt, sarcastic comments on current affairs carried by the Asahi Shimbun’s Wednesday evening editions, the day after he authorized the deaths of three inmates.

The column read: ‘‘Permanent death executioner: Justice Minister Hatoyama. Achieving a new record by giving the go-ahead in intervals of two months, holding his chest out with ‘‘pride and responsibility. Also known as the specter of death.’’

Hatoyama told a regular news conference after a cabinet meeting, ‘‘Since the issue is authorizing capital punishment, I don’t take it lightly. It is very upsetting but my view is that no matter how harsh it may be, I have no choice but to do so to achieve social justice.’’

Raising his voice at one point and hitting the table in front of him, Hatoyama said, ‘‘After agonizing over the decision, I have authorized executions in line with the judiciary and provisions of the law. I would not mind at all any insult to myself but I would also think it was an insult to the people executed,’’ the minister said. ‘‘Ill-advised writing like this, I believe, is making the world worse.’’

On Tuesday, Hatoyama authorized the deaths of three inmates, raising the total number of executions authorized by him to 13, a record high for any justice minister. Before this, authorizations were given in December, February and April.