Japan hangs two inmates, including one who sought retrial


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.


Two convicted killers executed, including one seeking a retrial


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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