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Human rights campaigners criticise Japan over executions

Japan has come under fire from human rights campaigners after two people were executed by hanging.

Sumitoshi Tsuda, 63, was found guilty of killing three people in 2009, while Kazuyuki Wakabayashi, 39, was convicted of killing a woman and her daughter in 2006.

Tsuda was the first person to be executed after a jury trial.

Jury trials, which were brought in six years ago in Japan, are in addition to trials conducted by judges only, which used to be standard practice in that country.

The justice ministry said Tsuda was put to death in a Tokyo facility, while Wakabayashi was executed in Sendai.

Amnesty International criticised the executions, saying 14 people have now been put to death under Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Roseann Rife, East Asia research director for the human rights group, said: "The death penalty is not justice or an answer to tackling crime. It is a cruel form of punishment that flies in the face of respect for life."

Recent opinion polls show that most Japanese people support the death penalty.

Tsuda was found guilty of killing three people with a knife after he complained that a neighbour was opening and shutting his door too noisily, according to the Mainichi newspaper. Tsuda withdrew his appeal after his conviction.

Wakabayashi, whose trial was not by jury, initially pleaded guilty but later asserted his innocence, the Mainichi said.

Japan's justice system has been criticised over cases in which confessions were coerced, and in which DNA tests proved the innocence of people who spent years in jail.

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