Japan hangs two convicts as Amnesty protests


Reuters, December 17, 1999

TOKYO, Dec 17, 1999 (Reuters) - Japan on Friday hanged two convicted murderers, bringing the total number of executions to 36 in the six years since it resumed the death penalty, human rights group Amnesty International said.

The Justice Ministry confirmed the hangings but as in the past, declined to disclose the names of those executed.

Amnesty said Friday's executions included a 62-year-old man convicted of murder and robbery who was seeking an appeal for a re-trial. Executions in the midst of such an appeal are rare, activists said.

London-based Amnesty said on Thursday that Japan was preparing to hang the convicted prisoners in line with its recent trend of year-end executions aimed at minimising the reaction from the general public.

``We are particularly concerned that the date of the executions may have been decided again in a way to minimise reaction from the general public and the parliament,'' it said.

But domestic public support for capital punishment has risen in Japan since doomsday cult Aum Shinri Kyo (the Supreme Truth Sect) staged a nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways in 1995.

The Aum attack killed 12 and left thousands ill.

About 80 percent of respondents to a recent nationwide survey supported the death penalty, the highest level of support since the government started conducting such polls in 1956.

Authorities in the past had refused even to confirm whether executions had taken place and continue to carry them out without prior warning to the families of those executed.

Activists opposed to the practice say there are currently 50 convicts on death row.

Japan is one of two advanced industrialised nations, along with the United States, which retain the death penalty.

Japanese prosecutors are currently seeking death penalties for four senior Aum members for their roles in the sarin gas attacks and other crimes allegedly committed by the cult. One has been given the death sentence but is appealing the ruling.


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