Two men were put to death in Japan Thursday, bringing the total number of death row prisoners executed under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to eight.

Mitsuo Fujishima, 55, and Ryoji Kagayama, 63, were hanged for a series of crimes ranging from extortion to murder.

Fujishima was convicted for drowning his ex-wife’s aunt in March 1986 while skipping probation for an assault conviction to prevent her reporting him to police. He also drowned his ex-wife’s boyfriend during an attempt to extort him for getaway money. Fujishima spent 18 years on death row after his sentence was finalized in 1995.

Kagayama, on the other hand, stabbed a 24-year-old Chinese student to death after robbing her in July 2000. He also killed another person during a separate robbery eight years later.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki condemned the crimes as “cruel” and “motivated by selfishness.”

“The loss of these victims’ lives caused unimaginable pain to their families,” Tanigaki said during a hastily arranged news conference following the latest executions.

Japan now has 129 inmates on death row. Tokyo did not execute in 2011, the first full year in nearly two decades without an execution. But in March last year, it abruptly resumed brought back capital punishment and put to death three multiple murderers.

Amnesty International Japan condemned the executions, saying “the high-paced executions under the Abe administration stands squarely against repeated international calls for abolition of death penalty.”

Surveys have showed overwhelming public support for the death penalty in Japan despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

“There are various criticisms of the death penalty . . . but Japanese law allows for it and I believe we have people’s support in principle,” Tanigaki said.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: sebra /