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Japan executes 2 inmates, raising 2012 total to seven

TOKYO -- Japan hanged two death-row inmates on Thursday, the justice ministry said, taking to seven the number of executions carried out this year.

Sachiko Eto, 65, was put to death for her part in the murder of six people in and around 1995, who were killed as part of what participants said was an exorcism, local media reported.

Yukinori Matsuda, 39, was executed for the robbery and murder of a couple in the country's southwest in 2003, the ministry said.

The executions were the second held under Justice Minister Makoto Taki, who also signed death warrants for two murderers in August.

Japan did not execute anybody in 2011. It was the first full year in nearly two decades in which the country did not carry out a single death sentence amid a muted debate on the rights and wrongs of the policy.

But in March Tokyo resumed its use of capital punishment with an unapologetic government minister signing death warrants for three multiple murderers.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialized democracy to carry out capital punishment, a practice that has led to repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

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