TOKYO - Japan on Thursday executed a man who robbed and killed a woman after plotting the crime with accomplices he met online.
The execution brings to 12 the total number of death sentences carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012.
Tsukasa Kanda, 44, was hanged for killing 31-year-old Rie Isogai in Nagoya, central Japan, in 2007.
He met his two accomplices via a mobile phone-based web service and the three of them together devised a plan to target a random woman victim.
The men kidnapped Isogai from a Nagoya street and suffocated her by wrapping her head and neck with a plastic bag, adhesive tape and rope, before battering her head with a hammer, according to Justice Ministry records.
"This was an extremely brutal case that brought unimaginable suffering to the victim and her family," Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a press briefing after the execution, the first since she came to office in October last year.
"After a series of careful reviews, I ordered the execution," she said.
Kanda's accomplices are serving life sentences.
Kanda did not appeal his death sentence after the original district court ruling.
Japan and the United States are the only major advanced industrial nations that continue to have capital punishment.
Surveys have shown the death penalty has overwhelming public support, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.
International advocacy groups say Japan's system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.