TOKYO (AFP) – A member of Japan’s ultra-leftist Red Army guerrilla group, which attacked embassies and hijacked planes in the 1970s and 1980s, was arrested Friday when he arrived back in Japan, police said.
Tsutomu Shirosaki, 67, returned home after serving a prison term in the United States and then being deported from the country.
Television footage showed Shirosaki in a blue windbreaker quietly walking through an arrival gate at Tokyo’s Narita airport, escorted by Japanese police officers.
Shirosaki was arrested in 1996 in Nepal – where he had been hiding – on suspicion of attempted murder and arson involving the torching of 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.
Two years after his arrest 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 26 people and wounding dozens more.
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.