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Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura has expressed his unwillingness to give the go-ahead for executions before he steps down next Tuesday with the outgoing Cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, according to sources.

Ministry officials have held meetings with Sugiura about ordering executions for a few death-row inmates, but he remains unwilling to sign documents that would give the green light, the sources said.

Sugiura stirred controversy when he took the post in October 2005 and said he would not sign documents ordering executions due to “matters of my religion and philosophy.”

He retracted the remark shortly afterward, but he has yet to give permission for a single execution.

A follower of the Jodo Shinshu Otani-ha Buddhism sect, he once said he believes executions will be abolished in the long term.

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