Two death row inmates were hanged Friday morning, according to the Justice Ministry, bringing to 16 the number of executions carried out under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration since taking power in 2012.
The two prisoners were Yasutoshi Kamata, 75, and Junko Yoshida, 56. Yoshida is only the fifth woman to face the gallows according to ministry records that date back to 1950, and the first hanged since 2012.
Kamata was sentenced to death in 2005 for killing five females in Osaka between 1985 and 1994, including a 9-year-old girl. Kamata abducted the girl to molest her, and eventually strangled her to death. He was also found guilty of kidnapping, having demanded a ransom from the girl’s father.
Yoshida, a former nurse from Fukuoka Prefecture, was convicted for conspiring with three other hospital employees in 1998 and 1999 to kill two of their husbands in schemes to pocket ¥67 million yen in insurance money. She was found guilty for being the mastermind behind the killings and sentenced to death in 2010.
Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki, who signed the order for the executions, emphasized they were only carried out after “careful examination,” and it was determined there was no valid reason for retrials.
“These two atrocious cases claimed the precious lives of the victims for extremely selfish reasons. I feel sorrow for those who were murdered and their families,” he told a news conference following the hangings.
The last time Japan hanged a death row inmate was in December.
The executions Friday were the second time capital punishment has been carried out since Iwaki took over the ministry five months ago. A total of 16 death row inmates have now been hanged under the current Abe administration.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International Japan, a human rights group opposed to capital punishment, criticized the latest executions, saying a string of capital punishment cases is evidence the administration is “disregarding lives.”
“From the international perspective, by keeping this atrocious, inhumane punishment it seems that . . . (Japan) disregards human rights by going against the (international) trend to abolish the death penalty,” the group said in a statement. “We extremely regret the executions this time, especially when the country is about to play a role in leading the international society as the host country of the G-7 Ise-Shima summit.”
There are now 124 inmates on death row in Japan after Friday’s hangings, of which 89 are seeking retrials and 22 are seeking amnesties, according to the Justice Ministry.