Three death row inmates, including a serial killer who murdered eight people between 1972 and 1982, were hanged Thursday morning, the Justice Ministry said.

While a brief statement by the ministry only listed the number of people executed, the three were identified by protest groups as Kiyotaka Fujiwara, 52, Takashi Miyawaki, 57, and Kunikatsu Oishi, 55. Fujiwara, a serial killer who changed his name in prison, is known to many under his former surname, Katsuta.

Fujiwara and Miyawaki were executed at the Nagoya Detention House, while Oishi was hanged at the Fukuoka Detention House.

Fujiwara, a firefighter from Kyoto Prefecture, was sentenced to death for eight murders and a series of robberies. His first victim was a bar hostess in Kyoto, whom he killed and robbed in 1972. His last victim was a truck driver he shot in 1982 using a pistol taken from a policeman he had run down with a car.

In 1983, he was overpowered by police in the parking lot of a Nagoya bank after threatening a bank customer with a gun. He confessed to the murders while in custody.

He was adopted into a family in 1994 and took on the surname Fujiwara. His adoptive sister published a book about his life on death row.

Miyawaki, from Gifu Prefecture, was convicted for the 1989 murders of the parents and sister of his former wife. The three, who were murdered in their sleep, were opposed to Miyawaki’s attempts to remarry the woman.

Oishi, from Saga Prefecture, was sentenced for stabbing to death a neighbor, his wife and their son in 1983 over a hose clamp he believed had been stolen from his house.

The executions were the first since Dec. 17, when two prisoners were executed, and also the first since Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori took power in April.

The death penalty system is opaque, with executions commonly carried out when the Diet is closed or just about to close to avoid public debate. The current Diet session ends today, making Thursday’s executions the first during an open session since 1993.

An unofficial moratorium on executions was begun at the end of 1989, but they resumed in March 1993 under then Justice Minister Masaharu Gotoda. Since then, 39 people, including the three Thursday, have been hanged.

Fifty-five people are on death row in Japan, according to the death penalty protest group Forum 90. Inmates may sit on death row for years and be executed with almost no warning.

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