Japan hanged two death-row inmates Thursday morning, the Justice Ministry said, including a multiple murderer who had reportedly been seeking a retrial.
According to sources close to the matter, Masakatsu Nishikawa, one of the two inmates executed, had filed his plea for a retrial over the murders of four women in the 1990s.
Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of murdering four bar managers in western Japan in 1991. The other inmate executed was Koichi Sumida, 34, who was found guilty for killing a female colleague in 2011 in Okayama Prefecture.
Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda ordered the executions, which were the 18th and 19th carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012.
The previous execution, the first ordered by Kaneda, was in November 2016, when a man was hanged for killing two women in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan.
Kaneda told a press conference following his first execution that the punishment was for “an extremely cruel case in which the precious lives of the victims were taken for selfish purposes. I gave the order after careful consideration.”
In October 2016, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a declaration calling for the abolition of capital punishment and introduction of life sentences without parole by 2020.
The minister has expressed opposition to abolishing death sentences, saying, “A majority of Japanese citizens believe the death penalty is inevitable against heinous crimes.”
According to human rights organization Amnesty International, a total of 141 countries legally or effectively abolished capital punishment as of the end of 2016. In 2016, 23 countries or regions, including Japan, executed inmates.