Tokyo -

Japan hanged two death-row inmates on Friday, the justice ministry said, bringing the number of executions so far this year to five.

One of those was Junya Hattori, 40, who raped and kidnapped a 19-year-old college student in 2002 before burning her to death at a construction site in the central Japanese city of Mishima, the ministry said.

Kyozo Matsumura, 31, was hanged in the western city of Osaka for killing two of his relatives in 2007 and stealing their money.

In March, Japan resumed its use of capital punishment after a 20-month break with an unapologetic government minister signing death warrants for three multiple murderers.

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

The executions on Friday were the first held under Justice Minister Makoto Taki, who was appointed in June.

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