Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama on Monday rejected a plea from six nonpartisan Diet members to have the death penalty abolished, Justice Ministry officials said.

“Many people support the death penalty system, so I cannot stop it,” she told the group of lawmakers.

The group, which included Seiichi Kaneta of the Democratic Party of Japan and Nobuto Hosaka of the Social Democratic Party, also asked Moriyama for permission to tour execution sites.

Moriyama was more accommodating toward this request, saying she too would like to inspect execution sites, including scaffolds, according to the officials.

The group told Moriyama that Japan and 38 states of the United States are alone among developed nations in maintaining capital punishment.

The group said the U.N. Human Rights Commission has advised Japan to take steps toward abolishing the death penalty. They also pointed out the disparity between the severity of death sentences and indefinite prison terms in Japan, under which convicts are often released on parole after 10 or 15 years.

The Justice Ministry has rejected requests to allow outsiders to inspect execution sites. , including delegations from a parliamentary league promoting the abolition of the death penalty as well as the European Commission, since it opened the sites to the media in the 1960s.

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