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TOKYO —

Japan on Friday executed two death row prisoners, local media reported, as the government—backed by public opinion—continued to ignore calls by international rights groups to end capital punishment.

Media identified the two inmates as Junko Yoshida, 56, a former nurse convicted of two murders for insurance in 1998 and 1999 in Fukuoka Prefecture, and Yasutoshi Kamata, 75, who was sentenced to death for killing a 9-year-old girl in Osaka and four women between 1985 and 1994.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said a press conference would be held later Friday.

The number of inmates on death row now stands at 124.

Japan and the United States are the only major advanced industrial nations with capital punishment.

Campaign group Amnesty International criticised the executions.

“The execution of two death-row inmates is extremely deplorable, and goes against the global trend for abolishing capital punishment,” said Hideki Wakabayashi, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan.

“Despite the fact that about 140 countries in the world have already abandoned or have stopped executions for more than a decade, the Japanese government is turning its back on the trend,” he told AFP.

Surveys have shown that the death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

International advocacy groups say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

In December, Japan executed two death row prisoners, including for the first time someone sentenced to death by jurors.

Japan in 2009 launched a jury system in which citizens deliberate with professional judges in a bid to boost the role of the citizenry in the judicial process.

Amnesty’s Wakabayashi also said Tokyo should be “severely criticised” for the timing of Friday’s executions ahead of Japan’s hosting of the Group of Seven summit of wealthy democracies in late May.

© 2016 AFP

Tag(s) : #Asia-Pacific

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