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4 death row inmates executed in Tokyo, Osaka

Four death row inmates were executed Thursday morning at the Tokyo and Osaka detention houses, the Justice Ministry announced Thursday.

A total of 10 condemned prisoners have been executed since Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama took office last year.

Thursday's executions were the first since three inmates were executed Feb. 1.

Ten death row inmates were executed under the term of previous Justice Minister, Jinen Nagase. It had been the largest number since then Justice Minister Masaharu Gotoda authorized executions in 1993 for the first time in three years and four months. It took Hatoyama only about four months to catch up to Nagase in the number of executions since the ones conducted Dec. 7 under his first execution order.

According to the ministry, the number of death row inmates decreased from 108 to 104 on Thursday.

Executed Thursday were Kaoru Okashita, 61, whose current family name is Akinaga; Masahito Sakamoto, 41; Katsuyoshi Nakamoto, 64; and Masaharu Nakamura, 61. Okashita and Sakamoto were executed at the Tokyo Detention House, and Nakamoto and Nakamura were executed at the Osaka Detention House.

In 1989, Okashita strangled Ume Endo, 82, of Suginami Ward, Tokyo, after swindling her out of about 200 million yen by selling her land without her permission. Okashita also shot and killed one of his criminal accomplices, who was an insurance agent.

In 2002, Sakamoto forced a 16-year-old high school student, who was on her way home, into a car and strangled her in Maebashi. Sakamoto threatened her parents into paying him 230,000 yen.

In 1982, Nakamoto killed a 70-year-old jewelry-dealer acquaintance and his 58-year-old wife in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, and robbed them of 24,000 yen in cash.

Nakamura killed his 52-year-old colleague in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, in 1989 and stole about 18,500 yen. Nakamura also killed a man in Otsu.

The ministry started to make public the names of the executed, the place of executions and the nature of their crimes after the first executions conducted under Hatoyama's orders in December.

"We conducted the executions simply on the basis of the law," Hatoyama said at a press conference on Thursday. "I'm not particularly conscious of the number [of the executions]."


Rate of execution has accelerated

By Fumio Tanaka

Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The nation's system of capital punishment, in which the rate at which prisoners have been executed tended to be restrained, seems to have entered a new phase as the rate of executions quickens under Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama.

After Hatoyama stirred dispute by proposing "automated executions" shortly after he took office, executions took place every two months after the first group the minister approved in December--three inmates were executed in the first instance, three in the second and four in Thursday's latest.

The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that executions be conducted within six months after each death sentence is finalized.

"I sometimes wonder only if there's some way to have executions automatically conducted without the justice minister involved," Hatoyama said shortly after he took office last year. "The fact that people point out that this justice minister conducted many executions and that justice minister executed no inmates contradicts stipulations of the Criminal Procedure Code."

Mainly due to the fact that no executions were carried out for the nearly 3-1/2 years before then Justice Minister Masaharu Gotoda gave his approval for an execution, the average duration between the finalization of a death sentence and the execution is more than seven years. Also, as the number of death sentences has increased due to recent toughening of criminal laws, the number of inmates on death row exceeded 100 in February 2007. The fact that 10 inmates were executed under two successive justice ministers apparently reflects the Justice Ministry's apprehension over the situation.
(Apr. 11, 2008)


Source: www.yomiuri.co.jp