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Several lawmakers requested on Wednesday that Justice Minister Kokichi Shimoinaba halt capital punishment at a Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs.

In an unusual move, five of the six committee members took up the issue during Wednesday’s regular question-and-answer session of the Lower House committee. The move is considered an effort to put anti-execution sentiment into deliberations now that rumors are circulating that authorities may soon execute death-row inmates.

Outside the Diet, lawmakers and citizens’ groups have submitted a written request for the justice minister to refrain from carrying out executions. They claim that an anti-execution rally they launched in December actually prevented executions at that time.

The death sentence has not been carried out in Japan since Aug. 1, when justice authorities executed four death-row inmates, including Norio Nagayama, a former juvenile offender who killed four people in a shooting spree in 1968. Since 1993, a total of 25 criminals on death row have been executed on eight occasions.

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