Upper house lawmakers inspect execution chamber

Friday, November 23, 2007 at 07:22 EST TOKYO — A group of lawmakers from the House of Councillors' legal affairs committee inspected an execution chamber at Tokyo Detention House on Thursday.

It was the first such inspection by lawmakers other than the justice minister in about four years. Members of the House of Representatives' legal affairs committee also plan to inspect it on Monday.

According to committee chairman Kiyohiko Toyama, 11 members inspected the execution facility where inmates are hanged and the site where detention officials push the buttons to operate the facility.

"I had the impression that the Justice Ministry is reluctant to disclose information about executions, including the execution chamber," Toyama told reporters, stressing the need to debate the issue of capital punishment.

Toyama said he is against capital punishment and that it should be abolished and replaced by life imprisonment.

Other members of the committee said, "We should consider whether hanging is appropriate," and "The psychological burden on detention officials involved in executions may be huge," according to Toyama.

The Justice Ministry turned down requests from media organizations to accompany the lawmakers, saying, "It is a place where the heaviest and most severe penalty is executed, and is not suitable to be publicized." (Kyodo News)