Page last updated at 04:07 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 05:07 UK

Japan executes three on death row

Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka
Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka was appointed last month

Japan executed three convicted murderers on Thursday, the Justice Ministry said.

The death row inmates, all in their 60s, included Yoshiyuki Mantani, 68, convicted of the murder of a 19-year-old girl.

The executions, by hanging, bring the year's total to 13, with another 100 believed to be on death row.

Nine people were executed in Japan last year, marking an increased pace of implementation of the death penalty.

The latest executions took place under new Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka, who was appointed in a cabinet reshuffle last month.

Capital punishment generates public support in opinion polls, amid fears of rising violent crime.

But Japan's record and the accelerated pace of executions, when many other countries in Asia are reducing their reliance on the death penalty, has provoked sharp criticism from rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Relatives of those due to be executed receive no advance warning of the event.

It is thought that about 100 convicted murderers and others on death-row are awaiting execution.

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