Japan minister resigns after criticism over death penalty remarks

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday dismissed Yasuhiro Hanashi as justice minister after criticism over remarks widely seen as making light of his role in authorizing executions of death-row inmates.

Hanashi’s removal dealt a fresh blow to Kishida after another minister was sacked in late October over his suspicious links to the controversial Unification Church, with public approval ratings for the Cabinet plunging recently.

Hanashi, who assumed the post in August, told a political gathering on Wednesday that the justice minister is a “low-key” position and it becomes “a top story in daytime news programs only when stamping a seal on documents of execution” in the morning.

Later Friday, Hanashi told reporters at the prime minister’s office that he had submitted a letter of resignation to Kishida, stating, “I’m sorry I treated the death penalty lightly and angered the public.”

Kishida had been due to leave in the afternoon for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia, but he delayed his departure until 1 am to appoint a replacement for Hanashi.

“I take my own responsibility for appointing him in the first place seriously. By tackling challenges ahead, I would like to fulfil my duties,” Kishida said.

The government’s low approval ratings are partly due to controversy over politicians’ ties to the Unification Church.

The sect has been in the spotlight since reports emerged that the man accused of killing former prime minister Shinzo Abe resented the organisation over donations his mother made that bankrupted the family.

The church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, has denied wrongdoing.



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