Japan has increased the number of prisoners executed ever since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office once again. Tokuhisa Kumagai, a 73-year old murder convict, was hanged at the Tokyo Detention House on Thursday and became the sixth convict to be executed under the death penalty since December. According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 132 more convicts on death row, waiting for their sentences to be carried out.
Kumagai was sentenced to death in March 2011 following an initial sentence of life imprisonment after he was convicted of murdering the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama during a robbery. The owner, a 77-year old man, was shot to death in his house in May 2004 and Kumagai left with a bag of 435,000 yen (about $4,350). His sentence was changed to the death penalty when the prosecutors made an appeal. The last time the death sentence was carried out in Japan was April this year, when two gangsters were hanged albeit protests from human rights groups and even from European governments.
On average, it takes five years and seven months before a man on death row is executed from the time the death sentence was finalized. However, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who signed Kumagai’s verdict, refused to comment about the criteria he used for the signing of Kumagai’s death warrant. “Kumagai’s case is an extremely cruel one. I ordered the execution after I carefully examined the case,” the justice minister said. 77-year-old Iwao Hakamada is the world’s longest-serving inmate on death row, after he was arrested in 1966 for the murder of his boss and the man’s family and by 1980, he had run out of venues for appeal when the Supreme Court upheld the verdict.