Japan to arrest Red Army member on return from US

2015-02-20 14:35

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Tokyo - A member of Japan's ultra-leftist Red Army guerrilla group who was released from prison in exchange for hostages held in a 1977 plane hijacking, is to be arrested on Friday when he arrives in Japan from the US.

Tsutomu Shirosaki, 67, has been deported from the United States after serving a prison term there, public broadcaster NHK said.

Shirosaki is scheduled to arrive at Tokyo's Narita airport on Friday afternoon, Fuji News Network and other media reported, quoting police sources.

He is set to be arrested by Japanese police when the plane lands on suspicion of attempting to set fire to a hotel room in Jakarta in 1986.

It is alleged that the arson was an attempt to destroy evidence related to mortar attacks launched on the US and Japanese embassies in Indonesia.

Human life outweighs the Earth

Shirosaki was arrested in Nepal in 1996, where he had been hiding, and handed over to US law enforcement authorities.

Two years later a US court sentenced him to 30 years' jail for attempted murder and other crimes in connection with the mortar attack on the US embassy.

Shirosaki was first arrested in Japan for attempted bank robbery, but was released in 1977 along with other radicals in exchange for hostages taken by the Red Army in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines plane in Dhaka. He later fled abroad.

Then prime minister Takeo Fukuda accepted the hijackers' demands, saying "human life outweighs the Earth".

The Japanese Red Army was founded in 1971 with its base in Lebanon after police crackdowns and factional infighting stymied the radical left at home.

The group, which was fighting for a global communist revolution, earned worldwide notoriety in 1972 when its commandos sprayed Israel's Lod International Airport in Tel Aviv with gunfire, killing 24 people and wounding 76 others.

The attack earned the Red Army a place of honour in the Palestinian guerrilla movement and was followed by a series of hijackings and attacks on embassies in the 1970s and 1980s.

The group was formally disbanded in 2001.

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