National / Crime & Legal

Ultra-leftist fugitive wanted for 1971 police slaying may have been captured, sources say

Kyodo, Staff Report

After 45 years on the run, a suspected ultra-leftist wanted for the 1971 killing of a police officer during a protest over the reversion of Okinawa to Japan may have been captured, investigative sources said.

Masaaki Osaka, 67, is suspected of involvement in an incident in which students assaulted a police box in Tokyo’s Shibuya district using Molotov cocktails and iron bars on Nov. 14, 1971, as part of demonstrations against a Japan-U.S. agreement on the reversion of Okinawa. One officer died and three others were wounded.

A key member of the Japan Revolutionary Communist League National Committee — known commonly as Chukaku-ha (Middle Core Faction) and established in 1963 — Osaka has been at large since 1972.

If his identity is confirmed through a DNA test, he will be moved to the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo and served a fresh arrest warrant on suspicion of charges including murder, the sources said.

According to the sources, the Osaka Prefectural Police raided an apartment in the city of Hiroshima on May 18 as part of their investigation of another leftist and found a man believed to be Osaka there. The police arrested the man as he threw himself against an officer, the sources said. He has remained silent, but police suspect it is Osaka from his appearance.

The police believe the man thought to be Osaka and the other leftist, Tetsuya Suzuki, 52, hid in the apartment, which has been used as a hideout by the much-weakened group.

The man believed to be Osaka was about to dispose of documents when the police entered the apartment, the sources said, adding that they seized close to 170 items such as personal computers and mobile phones.

Osaka is suspected of having participated in the incident in Shibuya, and along with other Chukaku-ha members, killing Tsuneo Nakamura, a 21-year-old police officer.

Before 2010, the statute of limitations for murder was 15 years. But the statute had not run out for Osaka because an accomplice in the 1971 incident, Yukio Okumiyama, had his court case suspended in 1981 due to mental illness. Okumiyama died in a hospital in February this year. In 2010, the Code of Criminal Procedure was revised to eliminate the statue of limitations for murder, so Osaka remains prosecutable.

On Nov. 14, 1971, about 72,300 people took part in rallies at 80 locations nationwide to protest the bilateral accord on the Okinawa reversion, and 312 student radicals were taken into custody in Tokyo through clashes with riot police, according to a Japan Times article published the following day.

A police officer was “critically burned” when he became a target of Molotov cocktails hurled by students in Shibuya, it said.

The incident occurred at around 3:15 p.m. when a group of more than 30 helmeted radicals appeared in a residential area and attacked riot police with fire bombs, the report said.

The participants in the rallies were opposed to the accord as it allowed the U.S. military to keep its presence in the prefecture.

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