Fusako Shigenobu, the 76-year-old female founder of the once-feared Japanese Red Army, yesterday walked free from prison after completing a 20-year sentence for a 1974 embassy siege.
Shigenobu was one of the world’s most notorious women in the 1970s and 1980s, when her radical leftist group carried out armed attacks worldwide in support of the Palestinian cause.
Shigenobu left the prison in Tokyo in a black car with her daughter, while several supporters held a banner saying “We love Fusako.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience my arrest has caused to so many people,” Shigenobu told reporters after her release.
“It’s half a century ago ... but we caused damage to innocent people who were strangers to us by prioritizing our battle, such as by hostage-taking,” she said.
She is believed to have masterminded the 1972 machine gun and grenade attack on Tel Aviv’s Lod Airport, which left 26 people dead and about 80 injured.
The former soy-sauce company worker turned militant was arrested in Japan in 2000 and sentenced to two decades behind bars six years later for her part in a siege of the French embassy in the Netherlands.
She had lived as a fugitive in the Middle East for about 30 years before resurfacing in Japan.
Shigenobu’s daughter May, born in 1973 to a father from the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), hailed her mother’s release on social media.
Shigenobu maintained her innocence over the siege, in which three Red Army militants stormed into the French embassy, taking the ambassador and 10 other staff hostage for 100 hours.
Two police officers were shot and seriously wounded. France ended the standoff by freeing a jailed Red Army guerrilla, who flew off with the hostage-takers in a plane to Syria.
Shigenobu did not take part in the attack personally, but the court said she coordinated the operation with the PFLP.
Born into poverty in post-war Tokyo, Shigenobu was the daughter of a World War II major who became a grocer after Japan’s defeat.
Her odyssey into Middle Eastern extremism began by accident when she passed a sit-in protest at a Tokyo university when she was 20. Japan was in the midst of campus tumult in the 1960s and 1970s to protest the Vietnam War and the Japanese government’s plans to let the US military remain stationed in the country.
Shigenobu quickly became involved in the leftist movement and decided to leave Japan at the age of 25.
She announced the Red Army’s disbanding from prison in April 2001. In 2008, she was diagnosed with colon and intestinal cancer, undergoing several operations.
Shigenobu yesterday said that she would first focus on her treatment, adding that he would not be able to “contribute to the society” given her frail condition.
“I want to continue to reflect [on my past] and live more and more with curiosity,” she said.
In a letter to a Japan Times reporter in 2017 she said the group had failed in its aims.
“Our hopes were not fulfilled and it came to an ugly end,” she wrote.
China and Brazil have reached a deal to trade in their own currencies, ditching the US dollar as an intermediary, the Brazilian government said on Wednesday, Beijing’s latest salvo against the greenback. The deal would enable China, the top rival to US economic hegemony, and Brazil, the biggest economy in Latin America, to conduct their massive trade and financial transactions directly, exchanging yuan for reals and vice versa instead of going through the US dollar. “The expectation is that this will reduce costs ... promote even greater bilateral trade and facilitate investment,” the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency said in a
India yesterday summoned Canada’s high commissioner in India to “convey strong concern” over Sikh protesters in Canada and how they were allowed to breach the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. Canadian media reported that hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over demands for an independent Sikh state, a simmering issue for decades that was triggered again in the past few weeks. Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India. “It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the
The US Department of Justice on Friday unveiled spying charges against a Russian who, under a Brazilian alias, studied at a Washington university and then tried to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The indictment of Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov said it would try to contest his extradition to Russia from Brazil, where he is jailed on identity fraud charges. Cherkasov, 39, was detained at the beginning of April last year by Dutch authorities for using fake identity papers. He arrived in the country as Viktor Muller Ferreira, a Brazilian, to take a position at the ICC as a junior analyst. The
The Japanese government has made tackling its falling birthrate a top priority, but with few women involved in official debate on the issue, some are making themselves heard on social media. Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the nation of 125 million since records began. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned the trend threatens “whether we can continue to function as a society,” and fresh focus on the issue has sparked countless articles. However, one in particular, which said Japan has the highest ratio in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of women aged 50