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Japan opens gallows to media for the first time

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Japan opens gallows to media for the first time


Japan opened up its execution chambers to the media for the first time on Friday to stoke debate about the use of the death penalty.

Domestic media were shown a room decorated with a Buddha statue before reaching the death chamber, separated by a curtain.

The hanging rope was removed from the ceiling-mounted pulley and the trapdoor was closed.

TV footage showed a small room next to the chamber where three executioners simultaneously push a button so none knows who activated the trapdoor.

All executions in Japan are carried out by hanging. No media coverage is permitted.

Death row inmates learn their fate at the last minute, while family members and lawyers are only told afterwards.

Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, a death penalty opponent, decided to allow journalists to tour the chambers as means of starting a public debate.

“I wanted to provide information to encourage public debate on the issue of capital punishment and clarify various consequences that it can cause,” she told reporters in Tokyo.

Capital punishment enjoys wide public support in Japan. According to a government survey carried out last year, 86 percent support its use.

The UN Committee against Torture has previously criticised Japan for the secrecy of its execution process and the psychological strain it puts on inmates.

Amnesty International says 107 prisoners remain on death row in Japan.

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