Japanese Red Army founder Fusako Shigenobu on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the 1974 seizure of the French Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, including charges of injuring local police officers.
However, Shigenobu expressed regret over the group’s activity, which, she said, gradually moved toward terrorism and lost the support of the Japanese public.
She also declared that she is disbanding the group, saying she will use legal means in pursuing her goal.
In her first trial hearing at the Tokyo District Court, Shigenobu, 55, denied conspiring with other members of the extremist group to confine the French ambassador and 10 others in the embassy in an attempt to free another member of the group who was under arrest in Paris at the time.
In an opening statement, prosecutors asserted that Shigenobu, who was not present when the group seized the embassy, masterminded the attack because she was their leader.
While admitting that the group was involved, Shigenobu, however, said that she did not conspire with the other members and thus has no criminal responsibility.
“While I certainly have organizational and moral responsibility (for the embassy seizure) as one of the founders of the Japanese Red Army, I did not join any meeting to plot (the attack),” said Shigenobu, who was arrested in Takatsuki, Osaka, on Nov. 8 after nearly 30 years on the run.
She also denied a charge that she falsified an official document in 1974 to obtain a passport for a friend also engaged in terrorist activities. However, she owned up to forging and using false passports as she traveled to and from Japan between 1997 and 2000.
Prosecutors said that Shigenobu conspired with Haruo Wako, 52, and two other Red Army members to seize the embassy on Sept. 13, 1974, in an attempt to force the French government to free an imprisoned group member.
The French government released the member, paid $300,000 and arranged an airplane for the group’s escape, they said.
During the 101-hour confinement of the French ambassador and 10 other officials at the embassy, one of the three group members shot at local police, seriously injuring two officers, they said.
While prosecutors said that the member shot the two police officers to kill, Shigenobu insisted that the member told her that he did not intend to kill, thus she thus believes the shootings were not murder attempts.
Founded by Shigenobu and others in 1969, the Japanese Red Army was involved in several high-profile acts of international terrorism in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1975, the group seized the Swedish and U.S. embassies in Kuala Lumpur to free its members under arrest in Japan. It also hijacked a Japan Airlines plane over India in 1977, during which it acquired $6 million in ransom from the Japanese government.
Shigenobu’s followers were also involved in a 1972 indiscriminate shooting at Lod airport — now called Ben Gurion Airport — in Tel Aviv, which claimed the lives of about 25 people. The group was also involved in a series of bombings in Jakarta, Rome and Naples in the mid-1980s as a part of its anti-U.S. campaign.
After the day’s session, Shigenobu’s 28-year-old daughter Mei, who came to Japan earlier this month, told reporters that she was glad her mother seemed to be in good shape.
Citing Shigenobu’s statement during the trial that she would continue to work for social reform, Mei said that she hopes to work together with her mother to pursue goals by legal means.
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