Tokyo, June 26 (IANS/EFE) Japan Thursday hanged a man on death row in the first execution of the year and the ninth since the government of the Liberal Democratic Party came to power at the end of 2012, the government said.
Masanori Kawasaki, 68, was executed in Osaka in western Japan for the murder of his two granddaughters and sister-in-law in 2007, Japan's Minister of Justice, Sadakazu Tanigaki said.
Japan, along with the US, is the only industrialised and democratic country that still uses the death penalty.
The execution is done under great secrecy, without prior notice to the offender and no witnesses, and is disclosed to the public only once it has been carried out.
Kawasaki was sentenced to death for killing his sister-in-law and three- and five-year-old granddaughters with a knife in the Kagawa province in southern Japan.
The convict went to his sister-in-law's house "out of spite", and after killing her and the two girls, he took their bodies to bury them in another location in an attempt to conceal his crime, according to police investigation.
"It is a very cruel case, since he took the valuable lives of three people for a selfish reason," the Japanese minster said.
Tanigaki added that it was "very hard for the victims' families", and that the authorities "have reviewed the case carefully before carrying out the execution".
The minister, however, did not give an explanation as to why Kawasaki was chosen to be hanged out of a total of 128 prisoners currently awaiting execution in Japan.
He also said that the government "has no intention of reviewing the death penalty system for now".
The last round of executions took place Dec 12 last year when two prisoners were executed in Tokyo and Osaka.
Japanese media such as the Asahi daily attribute the gap between the December executions and the one Thursday to the case of Iwao Hakamada.
Hakamada was released in March after spending 46 years in prison awaiting the death penalty after new evidence was discovered about the multiple murders for which he had been convicted.
Hakamada, 78, considered to be the man who has spent the longest time on death row in the world, is an ex-boxer suffering from a mental illness.
He was sentenced to death in 1968 but his sentence was suspended by a Japanese court that decided to review his case.
The minister of justice has defended the death penalty on several occasions using the argument that most Japanese support this system.