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Japan executes 3 prisoners in same day

First death sentence carried out in 18 months.

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This photo taken during a media tour conducted by Japan's Justice Ministry on Aug. 27, 2010, shows an execution room at the Tokyo detention house. Japan, one of the few industrialized democracies to maintain the death penalty, threw open the doors to its execution chamber for the first time to media. (JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan – one of the few industrialized nations that still uses capital punishment – executed three prisoners today, the first since 2010, The Associated Press reported.

The three were all death-row inmates convicted of multiple murders dating back to 1999, but all were executed in different prisons, the AP said.

Japan uses hanging to carry out the punishment, and generally reserves death sentences for multiple murderers, Agence France-Press reported.

“Today, three executions were carried out,” Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa told reporters, AFP said. “I have carried out my duty as a justice minister as stipulated by law.”

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Of those executed today, one rammed his car into a train station and knifed five people in 1999.

The practice is hotly debated in Japan, The Guardian said.

Critics such as Amnesty International accuse Japan of cruel and unusual punishment, and of coercing confessions from the accused.

Because no executions happened in 2011 – the first time that has happened in 19 years – it appeared Japan was bowing to internal and foreign pressure to ban capital punishment.

“We still need to have a national debate,” Amnesty International Japan executive director Hideki Wakabayashi said. “But while we are doing that, there has to be a moratorium on executions. … The executions also run against the international movement against the death penalty. I don’t know where Japan thinks it is going with this.”

There are 132 death-row inmates in Japan, which doesn’t tell inmates until hours before their sentences are carried out.

Lawyers and family members are informed after the prisoner is dead.

Japan’s justice minister said earlier this year that a review of the death penalty had reached a stalemate, The Japan Times reported.

“I don't really want to do it, but it is part of the justice minister’s job description,” Ogawa said shortly after assuming the post in January. “With 130 inmates on death row and public opinion 85 percent in favor of the death sentence, it would be inexcusable of me not to sign off on executions.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120329/japan-executes-3-prisoners-same-day