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Japan’s embattled justice minister resigns

Japanese justice minister, Yasuhiro Hanashi has stepped down, becoming the second minister to leave Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet in less than a month.

According to Reuters, Mr Hanashi was on Friday forced to resign over a scandal that has prompted a last-minute delay for the embattled PM’s tour of Asia.

The justice minister had come under widespread criticism over comments reported in the media in which he made light of his duties, specifically signing off on executions, which he referred to as “tedious”.

“I made citizens and ministry staff uncomfortable,” Mr Hanashi told reporters after tendering his resignation to Mr Kishida, referring to his comments about the death penalty.

Earlier, Mr Hanashi, a member of the prime minister’s faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was reported to have suggested there was little political advantage to his cabinet post and that he only made the news if Japan carries out capital punishment by hanging and does not inform prisoners until the morning of the day of their execution – a policy that rights groups have criticized for decades.

On Thursday, Mr Hanashi apologised for the comments and told parliament that he “took them back”.

“I feel great responsibility” for having appointed Hanashi to the post, Prime Minister Kishida later told reporters after accepting Mr Hanashi’s resignation.

Mr Kishida named Harvard-educated Ken Saito, a former agriculture minister, to replace Mr Hanashi.

The outcry over Mr Hanashi’s comments follows widespread public criticism of the government over LDP links to the Unification Church – a group some critics call a cult.

The suspected killer of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said his mother was bankrupted by the church and has blamed Mr Abe for promoting it.

Though the LDP has acknowledged many lawmakers have ties to the church but it insists there is no organisational link to the party.

Further damage for Mr Kishida has come from Internal Affairs Minister, Minoru Terada, who has been embroiled in a political funds documentation scandal amid calls that he, too, resign.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Tony Okerafor