Japan executes three murderers - and for first time reveals their names and crimes

Last updated at 16:24 07 December 2007

Japan executed three convicted murderers today and for the first time disclosed their names in a new policy that lifts some of the secrecy that surrounds executions there.

Seiha Fujima, 47, and Hiroki Fukawa, 42, were hanged in Tokyo, and 75-year-old Noboru Ikemoto was hanged in the western city of Osaka, according to the Japanese Justice Ministry.

The ministry had previously withheld all identities of those executed. One of the few industrialised nations to retain the death penalty, Japan has routinely faced criticism from human rights activists for keeping details of its executions secret.

"It was painful to sign the executions, because it meant I was taking lives by using the state authority," Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama told a parliamentary committee, where he also provided details of today's executions.

But he defended the executions, saying they would help to restore public safety, "soothe victims' feelings and meet the public's expectations".

Amnesty International welcomed the decision to release more information about the convicts, but strongly condemned Friday's executions, which increased Japan's annual total to nine.

"Executions were again carried out suddenly, without advance warning to either the convicts or their families," Amnesty said. "We hope Japan will take steps in the near future to abolish the grave offence that the death penalty is to human rights."

Until November 1998, the ministry had only revealed the number of executions in annual statistics.

The Justice Ministry then began providing the number of people hanged on the day of the executions, allowing international bodies to track Japan's record on capital punishment. But it withheld all other information, including the names of those executed, saying that to make such details public would distress the inmates' families and other prisoners condemned to death.

Today's disclosure, which follows requests from victims' families and their supporters, also reflects the ministry's attempt to meet public calls for greater openness and to promote understanding about capital punishment, officials said.

Fujima was convicted of a murder and robbery in 1981, followed by the killings in 1982 of a 16-year-old girl, two of her family members and an accomplice that stemmed from an attempt to accost the teenager, the ministry said.

Fukawa was convicted of two murders and two cases of fraud connected to those murders in 1999 and 2000.

Ikemoto was convicted of three murders and one attempted murder in a dispute with a neighbour over rubbish in 1985, the ministry said.

Three convicts were executed in April and three more in August.

The Justice Ministry's latest available data shows that 104 more convicts currently face execution.

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