Wife of JAL hijacker denies involvement in abduction

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The wife of one of nine Japanese fugitives in North Korea wanted for the 1970 hijacking of a Japan Airlines jetliner said Friday she was not involved in the kidnapping of a Japanese national to the reclusive state.

Tamiko Uomoto, 51, appeared before the Tokyo District Court for the first session of her trial to face a charge that she disobeyed a Foreign Ministry order to return her Japanese passport.

She admitted disobeying the order, but said she has been arrested and indicted for the convenience of interrogators who simply wanted to grill her about the abduction issue.

Uomoto said: “It is true that I did not return my passport on time, but there is no ground in the authorities’ reason that I had contact with a North Korean spy. I could not return the passport because there is no Japanese Consulate in North Korea.

“The interrogator intimidated me by shouting, ‘Return the abductees,’ which has nothing to do with the passport issue. With the government suppressing us by ignoring the legal system to this extent, Japan has really become a fascist state.”

Uomoto’s husband, Kimihiro Uomoto, 55, whose former name is Abe, is on an international wanted list for allegedly kidnapping Keiko Arimoto, one of the 13 Japanese that North Korea admits were taken to the country in the 1970s and 1980s. Arimoto disappeared from Copenhagen in 1983.

The husband is one of the Japanese Red Army Faction radical leftist group members who allegedly hijacked the JAL airliner to North Korea in 1970.

Uomoto left Japan in 1976 and is believed to have married around 1977. The couple had three children in North Korea who have came to Japan before their mother’s return.

The prosecutors said that when Uomoto renewed her passport at the Japanese Embassy in Switzerland in June 1986, she falsely reported her address as that of her parental home in Osaka, although she was living in North Korea at the time. She was put on the international wanted list in 1993 after disobeying a 1988 Foreign Ministry order to return her passport.

The ministry charged that she had been in contact with a North Korean spy believed to have worked with her husband to kidnap Arimoto.

Earlier media reports have quoted investigators as saying they suspect Uomoto was involved in the abduction of Arimoto because she entered Copenhagen right before Arimoto’s abduction. Uomoto was arrested immediately after returning to Narita on Feb. 24 from Pyongyang via Beijing.