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Japan: 'unprecedented execution spree' continues as six more Aum cult members hanged

Cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto who was executed earlier this month © Getty

Japan’s recent spate of executions will not make the country safer, said Amnesty International, in reaction to the executions of a further six members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo (Aum) this morning (Thursday 26 July).

July has now seen 13 people executed for their involvement in the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, which killed 13 people and injured thousands more, as well as their involvement in other illegal activities. The last time Japan executed more than 10 people in a year was in 2008. It is also extremely rare for Japan to carry out two rounds of executions in the same month.

Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, said:  

“This unprecedented execution spree, which has seen 13 people killed in a matter of weeks, does not leave Japanese society any safer. The hangings fail to address why people were drawn to a charismatic guru with dangerous ideas.

“The taking of a life in retribution is never the answer. It is high time for the Japanese authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions and promote an informed debate on the death penalty as first steps towards its abolition.” 

The six people executed in the early hours of Thursday morning were: Satoru Hashimoto, Yasuo Koike (Hayashi), Kenichi Hirose, Kazuaki Okazaki (Miyamae), Toru Toyota, Masato Yokoyama. Four of those hanged had requests for a retrial pending.

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution and has been campaigning for abolition of the death penalty for more than 40 years.

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