Japan has executed a foreigner for the first time in a decade, Asahi Shimbun reports. The extremely rare punishment was carried out against a Chinese national who murdered a family of four, including two children.
Wei Wei, 40, was executed on Thursday for the 2003 murders of Shinjiro Matsumoto and his family.
Wei had come to Japan from China as a vocational student. On June 20, 2003, Wei and two accomplices, also Chinese students, broke into the family's Fukuoka home with the intent of robbing it, believing that the family was wealthy. Inside, they found Shinjiro's wife, Chika, who was taking a bath, and 11-year-old son Kai, and 8-year-old daughter Hina. Both of the children were sleeping.
Wei and his accomplices strangled Chika and the two children. Then, when Shinjiro returned home, they choked him into unconsciousness.
The three men then stole about 37,000 yen ($338) in cash, then weighed the victims down with dumbbells and tossed them off a pier and into the sea. Shinjiro was still alive when he was thrown into the ocean, and he later drowned.
Two of Wei's accomplices, Yang Ning and Wang Liang, fled to China. Wang was sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court, while Yang was returned to Japan and executed in 2005.
Wei confessed to being involved in the murders, but insisted that it was the two other men who were the ringleaders, and that he had only a small role in this crime.
Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori, in announcing the execution, said that capital punishment is sometimes necessary in a country governed by the rule of law.
"The execution of a final and binding judgment should be strictly carried out in a country ruled by law," she said, noting that Wei's case was carefully reviewed before she signed off on his execution.
The death penalty is rarely enacted in Japan, and even more rarely is it enacted on foreigners, according to MSN.
Currently about 100 people are on death row in Japan. Last year, the country carried out only 15 executions, all by hanging. The vast majority — 13 of them — had been members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that carried out a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 people and sickening nearly 6,000.
In Japan, criminals sentenced to death aren't told of their impending execution until the day it occurs.
Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, condemned the execution.
"More than 100 countries worldwide have completely abolished the death penalty, while Japan persists with this barbaric punishment," said Amnesty International researcher Arnold Fang.