TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan has carried out a death sentence for the first time since 2005, executing four inmates as a heated debate rages on the island over whether capital punishment should be abolished.

The sentences were carried out Friday, a Justice Ministry statement said, two days after Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu signed the execution orders. Tseng replaced Wang Ching-feng in March following an outcry from victims' families after Wang said she wanted to see Taiwan's death penalty abolished.

The four men executed Friday had been convicted of "grave offenses such as fatal kidnappings and murders" and their sentences had been confirmed by court authorities at various levels, the statement said.

Pai Ping-ping, an outspoken campaigner for keeping capital punishment and whose daughter was kidnapped and killed several years ago, hailed the execution as belated justice.

"For those who had committed such brutal acts in cold blood, they were given too humane a treatment with the executions," she said.

Lin Hsin-yi, an official with an alliance working to abolish capital punishment, said the executions should not have been carried out because the men had expressed remorse for the crimes they had committed

Taiwan still has about 40 inmates on death row.

Eds: CORRECTS in graf 2 minister signed execution orders Wednesday instead of Friday; minor edits; trims.