TAIPEI: Taiwanese authorities said they executed five death-row inmates Tuesday, nearly a year after six prisoners were put to death.
The justice ministry said the five were put to death in various parts of the island. They were the first executions ordered by Luo Ying-shay since she became justice minister last September.
The inmates were anaesthetised and then shot, it said. There are now 47 prisoners on death row, according to the ministry.
"The five were cold-blooded and cruel, devoid of conscience...they have left the family of the victims pains that could hardly be allayed," deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang told reporters.
The five, separately convicted on charges of murder, robbery and forced sex, had caused 11 deaths and left four injured, he said.
The execution ruffled the feathers of the Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty, the group which has been active in pushing for the abolishment of death penalty.
It alleged that the execution was aimed to help the embattled Ma Ying-jeou administration divert the public's attention away from the recent controversies of the service trade agreement with China and a new nuclear power plant that have prompted tens of thousands of people to take to Taipei's streets.
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 long-standing policy, citing polls that show that more than two-thirds of Taiwanese support capital punishment, believing it is a strong deterrent to violent crime.
Taiwan reserves the death penalty for serious crimes including aggravated murder and kidnapping, but the political elite is divided about whether to retain it.
The abolitionist debate was revived after judicial and military authorities came under fire over the execution of a soldier wrongly convicted in a child murder case.
Chiang Kuo-ching, a 21-year-old executed by shooting in 1997, was posthumously acquitted in a military court in 2011 of the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl.
He had insisted on his innocence and said he was coerced by a group of air force intelligence officers into confessing. (AFP)