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Death row inmates' lawyers call for discussion, less secrecy on executions in Japan

Takeshi Kaneko, second from right, shows an almost fully redacted document received in response to a request for information regarding executions, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 27, 2023. (Mainichi/Hiromi Nagano)

TOKYO -- A group of lawyers representing three people on death row in Japan criticized the secrecy shrouding the country's executions and called for more debate in a recent news conference in Tokyo.

    At the Jan. 27 press conference held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, the lawyers insisted that executions in Japan are being carried out in a state of secrecy, both to the Japanese public and the outer world, and called for more debate on the matter and for more information to be made public.

    The lawyers earlier filed legal action in the Osaka District Court calling for abolishment of hangings as Japan's execution method, arguing that it violates the Constitution.

    One of the lawyers, Kyoji Mizutani, said that while public opinion on the death penalty may shift along with the changing generations and the social climate, "the Japanese government has been keeping the facts about executions hidden from public view and avoiding debate on the matter."

    In the Osaka lawsuit filed last November, the lawyers are representing three inmates awaiting execution at the Osaka detention center. They are seeking compensation from the state over three points said to violate the Constitution: executions carried out while appeals are pending, those carried out on the same day after inmates are notified in the morning, and execution by hanging, which they claim is cruel.

    Japan-based Italian journalist Pio d'Emilia, who led the conference, commented, "It's critical for the people of Japan to face this issue and think it through." D'Emilia suggested that bar associations take the initiative to screen the 1968 Nagisa Oshima film "Death by Hanging" at high schools across the country and discuss the matter.

    (Japanese original by Hiromi Nagano, Tokyo City News Department)

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