Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto asked Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri on Wednesday to extradite five members of the Japanese Red Army being held in a Lebanese prison.
Hashimoto told Hariri during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence that the timing of the prisoners’ return should be determined by the Lebanese judicial system, but that Japan wants the five handed over once they complete their prison terms, according to Foreign Ministry officials.
The Red Army members were found guilty this summer by a Lebanese court of using forged passports and were sentenced to three years in prison. They were detained in Beirut on Feb. 15 and indicted by Lebanese authorities in March on charges of using forged Malaysian, Thai, Chinese and Spanish passports to enter Lebanon.
On July 31, a Beirut lower court sentenced Kozo Okamoto, Masao Adachi, Mariko Yamamoto, Kazuo Tohira and Haruo Wako each to three years in prison. They are now appealing the ruling. The five reportedly claimed that Lebanese authorities detained and arrested them in apparent hopes of winning Japanese economic assistance.
Hariri did not respond to Hashimoto’s request, the officials said. But he told a news conference Tuesday that he would discuss the matter with Japanese government officials in a positive light. Founded in 1971, the Japanese Red Army engaged in various acts of international terrorism.
Okamoto was imprisoned in Israel for his role in a 1972 shootout at Tel Aviv’s Lod Airport that left 26 dead and many others wounded. He was freed in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange. Meanwhile, Hashimoto told Hariri that he hopes to strengthen relations with Middle Eastern countries in a variety of fields, including cultural exchange, because Japan’s link with these countries is currently dominated by the stable supply of petroleum, the officials said.