Justice minister Yasuhiro Hanashi under fire over death penalty gaffe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi

Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi has sparked over remarks he made on Wednesday that appeared to trivialize his duties as the head of the Justice Ministry.

“Justice minister is an obscure role that only makes headlines in the news after [an order to execute] a death penalty has been stamped in the morning,” Hanashi said at a political gathering in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Critics have slammed the Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker over the gaffe, saying it shows a lack of common sense.

“For whatever reason, I’ve become embroiled in the Unification Church scandal, and because I’ve had to try to resolve the issue, my face has been appearing on TV countless times,” Hanashi said at the gathering, which was hosted by Vice Foreign Minister Shunsuke Takei.

“The Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry have no chance of securing votes or raising money. Even if you become the vice foreign minister, you cannot raise much money. Even if you become the justice minister, you cannot secure votes,” he also said.

On Thursday Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno warned Hanashi to be careful about his remarks.

After speaking to Matsuno on Thursday morning, Hanashi said to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office: “I told [Matsuno] I would apologize if I gave the impression I was being disrespectful about the duties of the Justice Ministry. I was sternly warned not to say or do anything without thinking.”

Hanashi said he would not resign.

“Even though some of my remarks had been left out, as a Cabinet minister, I must be very careful not to give the wrong impression,” he added.

Hanashi, who had previously stated he would not withdraw his remarks, apologized at a meeting of the House of Councillors Judicial Affairs Committee on Thursday morning and retracted the comments.