Japanese Red Army founder gets 20 years

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Fusako Shigenobu, former leader of the Japanese Red Army, to 20 years in prison Thursday for masterminding the seizure of the French Embassy in The Hague in September 1974.

The court determined Shigenobu, 60, had a hand in the embassy seizure undertaken by three other members of the Japanese Red Army, despite the fact that she denied her involvement.

The attackers took the French ambassador and 10 other people as hostages in demand for the release of a fellow Japanese Red Army member jailed in France, shooting two police officers and seriously injuring them.

Prosecutors had demanded a life sentence for Shigenobu for the embassy seizure as well as two passport violation counts.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that she had asked the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to obtain weapons for the attack and that she bore the primary responsibility for the seizure even though she did not actually take part in the attack.

Defendant denies involvement
Shigenobu, a founder of the radical left-wing group, has denied involvement in the conspiracy to attack the embassy. Her defense team has said she was not in a position to give instructions.

Shigenobu is also accused of obtaining a Japanese passport through fake documents and traveling to Japan through Kansai airport between 1997 and 2000. She is further accused of helping one of the three Japanese Red Army members who attacked the French embassy violate Japan's Passport Law.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charge connected to the embassy seizure and the charge of passport law violation by Junzo Okudaira, one of the three Japanese Red Army members who attacked the embassy. She has pleaded guilty to her own Passport Law violation.

The Japanese Red Army member held in a French prison was released in exchange for the embassy hostages and fled to Syria together with Okudaira and the two other attackers.

One suspect still at large
Okudaira, 57, remains at large. The Tokyo District Court sentenced Haruo Wako, 57, the second member of the attack team, to life imprisonment last March after he and three fellow Japanese Red Army members were extradited to Japan from Jordan in March 2000.

The third member of the embassy attack team, Jun Nishikawa, 55, is on trial at the Tokyo District Court.

In Wako's case, the court dismissed prosecutors' arguments over the conspiracy charge.

Shigenobu was arrested in November 2000 after secretly returning to Japan. She is believed to have been based in the Middle East for many years.

The Japanese Red Army member who was released from French prison left the radical group in February 1986 and surrendered to Japanese police. He had been held in French prison for attempting to enter France on a fake passport in July 1974, two months before the attack.

Shigenobu declared the Japanese Red Army disbanded in April 2001.