Two men hanged by government in Japan in latest ‘secret executions’

Human rights groups slam practice in which inmates are told they will die just hours beforehand

Two men have been hanged in Japan as part of a campaign of “secret executions” carried out by the government, media reports say.

Eight prisoners have now been rushed through the country’s capital punishment system since the right-wing nationalist Shinzo Abe became prime minister a year ago.

Japan is the only major democratic country other than the US to execute its people. International human rights groups say the practice is particularly cruel because inmates are held for years and then only told about their impending death a few hours beforehand.

Amnesty International Japan was quoted as saying that “the high-paced executions under the Abe administration stand squarely against repeated international calls for abolition of death penalty”.

Despite this, capital punishment continues to attract widespread public support in the country. Though no one was executed in the whole of 2011 – the first time this had happened in two decade – hangings resumed in March 2012, and seven people were killed.

Announcing the latest round of executions, which happened today, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said: “There are various criticisms of the death penalty... but Japanese law allows for it and I believe we have people's support in principle.”

According to reports from the AFP news agency, one of those killed was Ryoji Kagayama, 63, who stabbed to death a student from China after robbing her in 2000 and was also convicted of knifing a man to death in 2008 in a failed robbery attempt.

The other prisoner was Akira Morinaga, 55, who drowned a relative of his former wife in a bath in 1986 and murdered one of her acquaintances days later.

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