Japanese Red Army founder gets 20 years

23rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, Feb 23, 2006 (AFP) - Japanese Red Army founder Fusako Shigenobu was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for a 1974 siege of the French embassy in The Netherlands during her once-dreaded group's decade of global violence.

TOKYO, Feb 23, 2006 (AFP) - Japanese Red Army founder Fusako Shigenobu was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for a 1974 siege of the French embassy in The Netherlands during her once-dreaded group's decade of global violence.

The grey-haired 60-year-old raised her fist as the judge found her guilty of attempted murder, although he declined to give her the life sentence requested by prosecutors.

"The verdict is not the end. It is only the beginning. Strong will shall keep spreading," Shigenobu said in a haiku poem read outside the courtroom by her lawyer.

Shigenobu, a former soy-sauce company worker turned militant supporter of the Palestinian cause, had lived in the Middle East for around 30 years before resurfacing in Japan with her 2000 arrest.

As her leftist radicalism lost support both in Japan and the Arab world, she announced the end of the Japanese Red Army in 2001 and has voiced regret over the group's victims, although not the cause.

Shigenobu had maintained her innocence over the 1974 siege, in which three Red Army militants stormed into the French embassy, taking the ambassador and 10 other staff hostage for 100 hours.

Two police officers were shot and seriously wounded. France ended the standoff by freeing a jailed Red Army guerrilla, who flew off with the hostage-takers in a plane to Syria.

Shigenobu did not take part in the attack personally but the court said she coordinated the operation with the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

"The court acknowledges that the defendant was a leader and the central figure of the group. However, it cannot be said that she organized the Hague incident as the main operating member," Tokyo District Court Judge Hironobu Murakami said.

"Therefore, the court judged the demand of life in prison would be too heavy and 20 years would be appropriate," he said.

The judge said he also "took into consideration that the defendant has expressed a feeling of regret in her own way by saying she had been self-centered."

Shigenobu entered the radical left in the 1960s amid worldwide tumult over the Vietnam War.

The Japanese Red Army first made the world stage in May 1972 when three members dressed in business suits sprayed gunfire at Tel Aviv's airport after landing on an Air France flight.

Twenty-six people were killed in the attack, most of them Puerto Rican pilgrims, including two of the Japanese assailants.

Shigenobu has expressed regret for the deaths but defended the attack, which was also coordinated with the PFLP.

She said the aim of the attack was to destroy the air control system of Lod airport, now known as Ben Gurion airport, which was also used as a military base.

"When I stand in court, I always feel exposed to the eyes of two groups of people. One is the victims and the other is the fellow commanders who died in battle," Shigenobu said in a message this week released by her lawyers.

Shigenobu has a daughter, 32-year-old May Shigenobu, whose father was a Palestinian PFLP militant. The former radical frequently smiled and looked at her daughter during Thursday's session.

Defense lawyer Kyoko Otani said she expected Shigenobu would try to appeal the verdict.

"This was an unfair verdict that serves simply as the mouthpiece of the authorities," Otani quoted Shigenobu as telling her in a note passed in the court.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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