Hatoyama: "No need for ban on executions."

Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007
Kyodo News

Face to face with opponents of the death penalty Friday, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said he will "solemnly" authorize executions while in office, according to those who participated in talks with him.

Hatoyama met with Social Democratic Party lawmaker Nobuto Hosaka and other opponents of capital punishment at the Justice Ministry. It is rare for a justice minister to meet with people calling for abolishment of the death penalty.

Hatoyama told a Lower House panel last month he wanted to have the opportunity to hear the views of people who oppose the death penalty.

The comment came after Hatoyama irked death penalty opponents at a news conference in September when he suggested considerations should be made to allow for the execution of those on death row without formal authorization by the justice minister in a manner that is "automatic and objective."

During the 30-minute meeting, the participants, including academics and civil group members, showed Hatoyama a photo showing a public execution in Iran, saying it constitutes "cruel punishment."

The participants proposed establishing life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as an alternative to hangings, they said.

However, Hatoyama was quoted as saying, "The issue should be discussed for 100 years or 200 years. But my position is that I will solemnly carry it out while I'm in office."

Hosaka, a Lower House member from the SDP, told reporters after the meeting, "We had only 30 minutes to discuss the issue with the justice minister. So we will meet him again."

Hosaka added that the next meeting would be a tough one for Hatoyama because he is planning to arrange a meeting between the justice minister and Shigemitsu Dando, a staunch death penalty opponent and former Supreme Court judge.

Apart from the death penalty issue, Hatoyama has also stirred controversy recently by telling reporters that he has an acquaintance who was a friend of an al-Qaida terrorist involved in the October 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia.