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Killing sparks death penalty debate

Murder of 10-year-old reignites argument

Killing sparks death penalty debate
A priest talks to an inmate during a prison outreach visit
Francis Kuo, Taipei

December 21, 2012

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An online petition campaign has dran thousands of signatures and reignited debate over the death penalty, in the wake of the killing of a 10-year-old boy by a homeless man earlier this month.

Recent debate has focused on comments attributed to a 29-year-old homeless man, who allegedly cut the throat of a boy in a Tainan arcade and subsequently said, “You can kill one or two people in Taiwan these days and not be sentenced to death,” according to local media reports.

About 20,000 people signed the petition in favor of the death penalty, which the government says is still supported by about 80 percent of the populace.

Vice-Justice Minister Chen Shou-huang told lawmakers this week that a new round of executions may take place soon but declined to provide any further details.

“The ministry follows its own timetable in carrying out capital punishment, but respects the suggestions made by human rights experts,” he said.

Chen’s comments followed earlier calls by two international experts demanding Taiwan President Ma ing-jeou suspend all executions before they visit Taiwan in February next year to inspect the country's human rights development.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are currently 61 inmates on death row in Taiwan. The last executions in the country were carried out in March 2011.

Lin Shin-I, head of a coalition for the abolishment of the death penalty, said capital punishment poses a threat to the innocent.

“Executing innocent people is highly probable because of deficiencies in the current judicial system.” 

Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei said the government could only delay and not abolish the death penalty because the majority of the country continues to hold to the concept of “an eye for an eye.”

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