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A group of Japanese lawmakers and representatives from the Council of Europe opened a joint two-day seminar Monday in Tokyo on the abolition of capital punishment.

“The death penalty goes against the idea of respecting precious life. I soon want to take legislative proceedings and endeavor to shape public opinion,” said Shizuka Kamei, the head of the Diet members’ League for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.

The leaders of both houses of the Diet were among some 50 lawmakers and others attending.

Member states of the 44-nation Council of Europe have not exercised the death penalty since 1997, according to the council. But Japan and the United States, which are observers on the council, continue to execute criminals.

The Council of Europe last June adopted a resolution to revoke the observer status of Japan and the U.S. if they do not take concrete steps toward abolishing the death penalty by next Jan. 1.

Renate Wohlwend, vice president of the Council of Europe Assembly, criticized Japan for continuing to use capital punishment, and called for its quick abolishment.

But Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama, who also attended the seminar, was cool to the idea.

“The majority of the Japanese public thinks the death penalty is inevitable in the case of brutal, serious crimes. I hope that you understand the reality of how cautiously the penalty has been exercised,” Moriyama said, indicating that she has no intention to seek its abolishment.

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