Japan executes first three prisoners since 2010

Execution room, Tokyo Detention Centre, 27 August 2010 Japan did not carry out any executions in 2011

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Japan has hanged three death row inmates in its first executions since July 2010.

Reports said the unnamed prisoners, hanged in separate prisons, had all been convicted of multiple murders.

Japan is one of the few advanced industrialised nations to retain the death penalty. It is usually reserved for multiple murders.

Though the majority support the death penalty, rights groups say Japan's death row is particularly harsh.

"Today, three executions were carried out," Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa said. "I have carried out my duty as a justice minister as stipulated by law."

There are currently more than 100 people on death row, including Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. No executions were carried out in 2011.

Official figures in Japan as of 2011 put support for capital punishment at over 80%.

But rights groups like Amnesty International have called for it to be abolished, saying the condemned have few visits, little exercise and are forced to spend almost all of their time sitting down in their cells.

Sometimes held for decades, they are not warned in advance of when they will be put to death, meaning they fear every day is their last, the BBC's Roland Buerk reports.

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