Japan on Tuesday executed three people including notorious serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, a fetishist convicted of murdering four young girls and eating parts of their bodies, officials said.
File photo shows prison guards checking cells at a prison in Tokyo. Japan has executed a serial killer convicted of murdering girls in the late 1980s and eating some of their bodies, news reports said Tuesday.(AFP/File/Toshifumi Kitamura)
Miyazaki, 45, was nicknamed the "killer nerd" for his obsession with sexual cartoons and pornography. But defence lawyers contended he was mentally ill and could not be held fully responsible for his actions.
Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama told a news conference he had signed the order to send the trio to the gallows to "realise justice."
"We are carrying out executions by selecting the people whom we can execute with a feeling of confidence and responsibility," he said.
Japan, the only major industrialised nation other than the United States to apply the death penalty, has come under fire from the European Union and human rights groups for stepping up the pace of executions.
But Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said there was no plan to stop the hangings.
"In Japan, the majority view is that capital punishment should be maintained, so I feel no need to change what we have continued doing until now," he told a small group of reporters.
The executions come one week after Japan saw a deadly stabbing spree in a district of Tokyo known for its high-tech and alternative culture carried out by a troubled young auto worker who sent messages of despair over the Internet.
Miyazaki was arrested in July 1989 while trying to take naked pictures of a girl outdoors and the details that emerged from his case stunned Japan.
He confessed to having killed four girls, aged between four and seven, in Tokyo and its suburbs and eating some of the remains of two of them.
Miyazaki mutilated the bodies of the victims, slept next to the corpses and drank their blood.
He sent letters to the media under a woman's name claiming responsibility for the crimes and sent a box containing the remains of one girl to her family.
"The atrocious murder of four girls to satisfy his sexual desire leaves no room for leniency," Chief Justice Tokiyasu Fujita said in January 2006 when he upheld his death sentence.
When police arrested Miyazaki, they found about 6,000 videotapes, many containing horrific footage, at his home in Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo.
During the nearly two-decade judicial process, Miyazaki never uttered a word of remorse to the victims and their families. He cryptically said that a "rat man" -- which he even drew a cartoonish image of -- committed the crimes.
He also distanced himself from his family. When his father, unable to come to terms with what his son did, jumped into a river to his death in 1994, Miyazaki wrote to a publisher: "I feel refreshed."
Hirokazu Hasegawa, a clinical psychologist who saw Miyazaki in 2006, said the killer believed his crimes would resurrect his grandfather, who died three months before he committed his first murder in 1988.
"What he told me last was, 'Please tell the world that I'm a gentle man'," Hasegawa said at the time.
Japan had a de facto moratorium on executions for 15 months until 2006 as the then justice minister, Seiken Sugiura, said the death penalty went against his Buddhist beliefs.
Japan has since executed 23 people, of whom 13 were hanged under Hatoyama. The day's executions left 102 people on death row.
Amnesty International said the latest executions were "evidence that Japan is taking the path toward mass executions," voicing "deep disappointment and extremely serious concern."
The other two inmates who were executed Tuesday were both convicted murders, Shinji Mutsuda, 37, and Yoshio Yamasaki, 73.