Justice Minister Eisuke Mori announced Tuesday that two death-row inmates have been executed, marking the first executions under the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso formed in late September and breaking a record high for the number of people executed per year.
According to the Justice Ministry, the two are Michitoshi Kuma, 70, who was at the Fukuoka detention center, and Masahiro Takashio, 55, at the Sendai detention center. They were the first executions since Sept 11.
Kuma kidnapped two seven-year-old girls on their way to school in southern Japan in February 1992 and strangled them, dumping their bodies in the mountains.
Takashio was convicted of breaking into a house in northern Japan in March 2004 and stabbing a 55-year-old woman and her 83-year-old mother to death before stealing 50,000 yen, or about $500.
"Both crimes stemmed from cruel motives and took the precious lives of victims," Mori told reporters. "The crimes caused grave sorrow to the families of the victims."
Japan, which in the past has faced criticism for keeping prisoners on death row for decades before their executions, has increased the pace of hangings in recent years.
Executions are not announced beforehand and are carried out in secret.
The rise in executions has triggered strong protests from advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, though the anti-capital punishment lobby inside Japan is small.
There are about 100 people on death row in Japan.
Tuesday's executions bring the annual total of people executed by the government to 15, the most since 1999 when the government started publishing the number of people executed. The government has been executing inmates at a pace of once around every two months since the period of former Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama.© Wire reports