Japan executes first foreigner in years

Chinese man Wei Wei, who killed a family, first foreigner executed since disclosure of sentence details began in 2007.

    The execution on Thursday was the 39th since PM Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012 [File: Masashi Hara/Getty Images]
    The execution on Thursday was the 39th since PM Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012 [File: Masashi Hara/Getty Images]

    Japan on Thursday hanged a 40-year-old Chinese man convicted of murdering a family of four, in the country's first execution of a foreigner since the disclosure of details on sentences carried out began in 2007, the justice ministry said.

    The man, Wei Wei, had committed the murders in mid-2003 with two accomplices who were also Chinese nationals, media reported.

    The other two fled to China and were arrested there. One was executed in China in 2005 and the other received a life sentence, media said.

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    Japan is one of just two Group of Seven nations to retain the death penalty - along with the United States - and an overwhelming majority of the public favours it.

    Prisoners are hanged in Japan, and the condemned are not told when their execution will take place until the morning of the day the sentence is carried out.

    Some 120 prisoners are on death row. Last year, 15 were executed - the highest number for a decade - including 13 former members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, who had been convicted of carrying out sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway.

    The execution on Thursday was the 39th since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012, according to the justice ministry.

    Before 2007, the identity of those executed was not disclosed in data issued on capital punishment.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency