• Kyodo

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The families of two victims of convicted killer Toshihiko Hasegawa have sent a written request to the Justice Ministry asking that his sentence be commuted from death to life in prison, according to legal sources.

The request sent May 23 to the warden of the Nagoya Detention House, where Hasegawa is on death row, marks the second time the two families have petitioned the ministry to commute the 49-year-old killer’s sentence.

The ministry did not act on their 1997 request. Since 1955, only three death row inmates have had their sentences commuted, the ministry said.

Hasegawa himself has also petitioned the Justice Ministry to commute his sentence. He was sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of three men between 1979 and 1983.

He was convicted of killing Teruyoshi Eguchi, 20, in Aichi Prefecture in 1979, in a failed scheme with accomplice Masamichi Ida to collect insurance money. Ida was executed in November 1998.

Hasegawa was also convicted of murdering 30-year-old Akio Harada, a trucker he had hired, in an orchestrated traffic accident in Kyoto Prefecture in January 1983 to collect insurance money.

In December of the same year, he murdered a 39-year-old money broker in Aichi Prefecture, from whom he had borrowed money.

A brother of Eguchi as well as the mother and a brother of Harada are requesting that Hasegawa’s sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.

They said they have received more than 100 letters of apology from Hasegawa and that he has become a Christian.

“I received numerous letters of apology, and had a chance to meet (Hasegawa). I can never forgive him, but I think by living on he would be able to compensate for what he did,” Harada’s brother, Masaharu, said. “I want him to spend the rest of his life feeling the graveness of his sin.”

Eguchi’s brother added, “The death penalty may be more severe as a punishment, but I hope (Hasegawa) will spend his life in atonement and prayer.” In submitting the petition, Harada recalled how his feelings toward Hasegawa changed over the years.

When Akio Harada died in 1983, police initially concluded he was killed in an accident he had caused. His mother even loaned 2 million yen to Hasegawa to cover the repair cost of the truck that was damaged in the “accident” that killed her son. But a year later, it was determined that he had been murdered by Hasegawa in an orchestrated accident.

When he testified as a witness in Hasegawa’s trial in 1984, Harada himself said he hoped his brother’s murderer would be sentenced to hang. He also told people around him that he wanted to kill Hasegawa himself.

The first of the letters from Hasegawa reached Harada in October 1984. Although he continued to ignore them until 1993, he finally happened to open a letter in which Hasegawa said he wanted to visit the victim’s grave and apologize.

In the summer of that year, Harada visited Hasegawa at the Nagoya prison “because I thought I may find out why my brother was killed.” Although they did not talk much about the case itself, Harada now says he felt better after meeting Hasegawa.

“An execution may put an end to the case, but that does not help the relatives of the victims. I think there should be a system whereby the victims of crimes and their families can seek advice from experts,” Harada said.