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The Justice Ministry will open the execution chamber at the Tokyo Detention House to the media as early as August, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said Friday.

Secretive practices surrounding the capital punishment system, including executions without prior notice to death-row inmates, their relatives and lawyers, have drawn criticism.

Execution chambers have been closed to the public, including the media, but Chiba has ordered the Tokyo facility to allow media access to stir debate over the death penalty.

She told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting Friday that a panel to study the death penalty will be established in August under her to discuss the overall system of capital punishment.

The announcement came after Chiba, who once belonged to a group of lawmakers against the death penalty, ordered the hanging of two death row inmates and, in an unusual move, witnessed the executions herself Wednesday.

After attending the executions, Chiba said at a news conference, “I felt anew the need to fundamentally discuss the issue of capital punishment.”

On Friday, she rejected suggestions she had been pressured by Justice Ministry officials to sign the execution orders, saying: “It’s not true. I recognized that I had such a duty when assuming the justice portfolio.”

She also said the view she held as a former member of the Japan Parliamentary League against the Death Penalty that abolishing capital punishment is one option “will never change,” indicating she remains in favor of its abolition.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Committee urged Japan in 2008 to consider terminating the death penalty regardless of domestic public opinion, which favors its continuation.

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