JIN-386 -- Death Row Inmates Should be Nervous

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News =======================================================
Issue No. 386
Thursday September 28, 2006 TOKYO
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@@ VIEWPOINT: Death Row Inmates Should be Nervous

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Death Row Inmates Should be Nervous The trend worldwide is toward the abolishment of capital punishment. The US and Japan are the only industrialized nations that still carry out executions. In Japan there has been an outcry for tougher punishment, reflecting crime victims' demands. Yet ever since the restart of capital punishment in 1993, the number of executions has steadily declined, to the level of one to three per year, and, finally, to zero. As of September 15 there were 89 inmates on death row.

During a press conference upon his taking office in October 2005 then Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura said with regard to capital punishment, "I will not sign [a document authorizing execution]. He explained his decision was "a matter of heart, a philosophical question." An hour later he retracted the statement. But everyone knew he had meant what he said.

Minister Sugiura and the bureaucrats tasked with carrying out capital punishment fiercely battled to the very end of his term.

Sugiura, a lawyer and former vice chairman of the Tokyo Bar Association, and, as a lawmaker, a politician who has always backed the Justice Ministry's interests--for a minister from such a background to pose the question whether one human can kill another shook the foundation upon which rests the edifice of capital punishment. The bureaucrats felt compelled to shore up the system. Some in the ministry reportedly are not so much opposed to the abolishment of capital punishment as they are in favor of its being accomplished after debate and through legislation, since Japanese society feels under siege in the wake of an endless succession of high-profile crimes.

Some in the Ministry are of the opinion that if Sugiura had laid the question of the appropriateness of capital punishment before the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice, his argument would have carried more weight. His refusal to sign an order for execution makes him appear as if he is sidestepping the issue.

Efforts to persuade Sugiura to give his seal of approval to executions began in September and lasted almost a month.
The responsible authorities in the Justice Ministry drew up a list of three death row inmates for execution and briefed the Minister. Sugiura said he would read the records himself and directed that a filling-cabinet's worth of documents be brought to his office.

Persons responsible met repeatedly with the Minister, arguing that in the absence of his approval all efforts to date would have been for naught. Then the Ministry came under pressure from the Office of the Prime Minister after the court handed down the death sentence for Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, the former AUM guru found guilty of the Sarin subway attack and a myriad other crimes. Apropos the sentence Prime Minister Koizumi said, "Whatever the punishment, it should be carried out in an orderly manner."

In early September Minister Sugiura received from the Otani sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, to which he belongs, a letter asking him to stand by his beliefs and not sanction any executions. The letter reportedly swayed him. He had met priests from the Otani sect in March, after which he told LDP bigwigs there was an unexpected ground swell of opposition to capital punishment.

The "Asahi Shimbun," an influential liberal daily, quotes an unnamed Justice Ministry official as saying, "The people have shown more understanding than I had expected.
Although the public is clamoring for tougher punishment, it [Sugiura's not authorizing executions] was probably a political calculation that they have different feelings about capital punishment."

Shintaro Abe, Japan's new PM, has appointed Jinen Nagase Justice Minister. On the question of capital punishment, Nagase has been coy, remarking "The death penalty is an extremely important issue and should be handled carefully,"

Commentators here routinely describe the Abe cabinet as hawkish. With the replacement of a Buddhist by a close ally of the conservative Abe, the 89 inmates on death row have reason to be nervous.

-- Burritt Sabin

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Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar: 30th of September

If you have been considering setting up your own company, find out what it takes to make it successful.
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So Fast Offering Tours of Its Warehouse

So Fast Corporation, an innovative logistics company, is offering tours of its Heiwajima warehouse.
See why 8 of 10 foreign company presidents choose So Fast after a visit.
Read in the autumn issue of J@pan Inc Magazine why SNOVA Corporation selected So Fast and are glad they did.

For details and an appointment, contact Katsuhiko Kakuchiyama.
Phone: 03-5753-3101
Email: k.kakuchi@so-fast.co.jp

Logistics warehouse Dates:
Sep 1 - Oct 31
Time: 8:45a.m. - noon


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