TOKYO—Japan has executed a man convicted of killing seven people in 2008 when he rammed a truck into a Tokyo crowd and went on a stabbing spree with a dagger.
It was the first time Japan carried out the death penalty this year.
The attack took place on June 8, 2008, in Akihabara, Tokyo’s popular shopping area for electronics and subculture goods. Tomohiro Kato, then 25, rented a truck and plowed into a Sunday crowd a week after the factory where he worked announced a downsizing plan. Then he got out of the truck and randomly stabbed bystanders.
Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said he ordered the execution. He cited government opinion polls in 2014 and 2019 that found about 80% of respondents said the death penalty was warranted in some cases.
“Considering the situation in which brutal crimes are never ceasing, it is necessary to impose the death penalty on those who committed extremely serious and brutal crimes,” Mr. Furukawa said.
Japan carries out executions by hanging.
The execution was the first in Japan since December 2021, when three convicts were executed.
Japan carries out the death penalty a few times a year on average. One outlier was 2018, when 13 people connected to the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult were executed. The total number of executions that year was 15. The cult masterminded the deadly 1995 nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
The death penalty occasionally draws controversy in Asia, especially in countries where it is used for crimes other than murder. In April, a Malaysian man convicted of drug trafficking more than a decade ago was executed in Singapore despite criticism from human-rights advocates who had called for clemency on the grounds that he was mentally disabled.
The Japan branch of Amnesty International, a human-rights group that opposes the death penalty, said about 70% of countries have barred the death penalty or de facto stopped using it. “Japan is turning its back on this trend and increasingly isolating itself,” the group said.
Write to Chieko Tsuneoka at chieko.Tsuneoka@dowjones.com
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