Taiwan executed six death-row inmates on Friday after calls for heavier punishments for serious crime were prompted by the death of a girl who had her throat cut at school.
The executions of the six, ordered by Justice minister Luo Ying-shay, were carried out in four prisons on the island, according to a statement read by deputy justice minister Chen Wen-tang at a press conference.
"Whatever the motives of the crimes, they were cruel and cold-blooded, and what's more, they have shown no remorse. The crimes they committed have gravely impacted social order and caused panic among the general public," Chen said.
"Since all of them have been convicted in final rulings, in order for social justice, the justice ministry has to carry out the sentences accordingly."
Separately convicted on charges of murder, forced sex and robbery the six had caused nine deaths, he said.
The inmates were anesthetized and then shot, Chen said, adding that there are now 42 prisoners on death row.
The executions came after an eight-year-old girl was attacked on the campus of her school in Taipei by a jobless man last week, who admitted to the crime but claimed he had problems at work and was unhappy with his life.
The second-grader died two days after the attack while the suspect has been put in custody and placed under investigation.
In the wake of the horrifying attack, tens of thousands of people have endorsed a call on a Facebook page for an amendment to the law under which perpetrators of any attack on school children would face the death penalty.
Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty, a leading activist group pushing for the abolishment of the death penalty, was irked by what they said was a "disappointing" decision by the government.
"Damn the government!" Lin Hsin-yi, executive director of the rights group, wrote on her Facebook page.
"The government should not choose this juncture to carry out executions, a move which is aimed only to divert the attention of the public. This showed the government has displayed no desire to reduce the crime rate," she told AFP.
But justice ministry officials insisted that the decision had been made before last week's attack.
Taiwan resumed executions in 2010 after a five-year hiatus, putting four people to death. There were five executions in 2011, six in 2012 and another six in 2013.
But the government has defended the policy, citing polls showing that more than two-thirds of Taiwanese support capital punishment, believing it to be a strong deterrent for violent crime.
Taiwan reserves the death penalty for serious crimes including aggravated murder and kidnapping, but the political elite is divided over whether or not to retain it.
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